Motshekga's meeting with teachers unions cancelled

15 July 2020 - 09:03
By Yoliswa Sobuwa
The meeting between the minister of basic education Angie Motshekga and teachers unions was meant to discuss the way forward for schools. 
Image: Trevor Samson The meeting between the minister of basic education Angie Motshekga and teachers unions was meant to discuss the way forward for schools. 

A meeting that was supposed to take place between teachers unions and the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga on Wednesday has been cancelled. 

According to the message sent to the unions the meeting, which was meant to discuss the way forward for schools amidst calls by education unions for the suspension of classes, has been cancelled due to the minister's consultation with the sector. 

On Tuesday South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) announced that due to the spike in Covid 19 infections that has led to the deaths of teachers and pupils, schooling should be suspended until the peak period of the pandemic is over.

The second biggest education unions National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) is also calling for the abandonment of schooling this year. Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said it would be  irresponsible to keep schools open in the immediate period. 

"We are calling for the closure coupled with a plan on how to take the school year to a close. A period of closure should not be wasted. NAPTOSA wishes to offer its assistance to the Minister, and the Department of Basic Education, to draft such a plan that will be ready for implementation, once it is evident that a stage has been reached in the flattening of the Covid-19 infection curve. Specific attention should be given to the issue of assessments and the position of our matriculants, and other grades, for whom it will be essential to complete the academic year," Manuel said.

He said even though the re-closure of schools will be disruptive, NAPTOSA was not prepared to compromise the physical and mental health of their members, in particular, and whole communities in general, under the circumstances.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] also announced that it supports its sister union and reliable ally in the terrain of struggle, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union [SADTU], in calling for schools to close until the COVID-19 peak passes.

Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said the union holds a strong view that schools should reopen in September because temperatures would have risen by that time of the year and infections would decrease as the virus is said to be less of a threat in warm conditions.

"The increasing number of learners and teachers who are getting infected with the virus is a serious cause for concern and the start of the winter season including the recent spike in transmissions in the country necessitates that stringent measures are put in place to protect lives. Even before the peak, the department failed to put measures in place to protect learners and teachers," Xaba said.

He said many schools had been complaining about late delivery of Personal Protective Equipment [PPE], poor quality of PPEs in most schools, no PPEs for non-teaching staff, dilapidated classrooms while some rural schools still have no proper toilets and scarce water supplies for washing of hands.

"The peak of the virus is only going to exacerbate these problems which will lead to loss of innocent lives. The World Health Organisation [WHO] has also warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the coronavirus are on the rise," Xaba said.