'Schools should be closed immediately', education unions say

The unions said the meeting had noted that the system wasn’t ready and was under severe pressure, with very low numbers of attendance since the return of the first batch of grades.
The unions said the meeting had noted that the system wasn’t ready and was under severe pressure, with very low numbers of attendance since the return of the first batch of grades.
Image: Pixabay

Five education unions have resolved that schools should be closed with immediate effect.

This decision comes after five recognized teacher unions in the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) namely; the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU), National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), South African Teachers Union (SAOU), National Teachers Union (NATU) and Professional Educators Union (PEU), met the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga on Friday.

The meeting was held to assess the situation at schools since the reopening and the return of learners of Grade 12, 11, 7, 6 and Grade R in several provinces.

According to the unions the meeting noted that the system wasn’t ready and was under severe pressure, with very low numbers of attendance since the return of the first cohort.

"That the department has not been able to protect teachers, learners and education support personnel by providing them with the necessary protective materials at all schools. The scientists have predicted that the virus was reaching its peak and is growing exponentially.

"Cases of infection in the country have exceeded 300 000, making South Africa the sixth sixth worst-hit nation. The alarming increase is happening during the winter period, which is also known as influenza season," said the unions.

The unions said the situation has provided another side of the virus where  many learners have been infected while some have lost their lives to the disease.

Meanwhile, new evidence has shown that the virus is also airborne.

"We value and are heeding to the call by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on how to manage the reopening of the schools especially when there is no proper management of the transmission at schools and the disruptions caused by the reopening and closing of schools. The reported cases and closure of schools is causing a lot of fear and anxiety and affecting teaching and learning at our schools. The system is not capable of attending to the psychological effects at schools. The impact of this is demonstrated by the level of stress experienced by both our teachers and principals," said the unions.

The unions said they have resolved that the system should use this time to attend to all outstanding issues, including the provision of water, building of toilets and additional classes and teachers.

"Schools should re-open at the end of August 2020, subject to review based on the development of the virus. The department should provide teachers with the necessary tools to work from home and prepare work for the reopening of schools and return of learners . Prioritize Grade 12 and look at different modes to assist them while they are at home. Grade 12 learners should return on August 17, the department and stakeholders to discuss the curriculum post this calendar year, focusing on reading for the remaining months of 2020. Stakeholders and the department should engage the department of higher education to consider the registration for first years in 2021."

The unions further said a task team should be established to work on all the challenges confronting the education system and expeditiously conclude the collective agreement on the human resources to deal with absenteeism of teachers on self- isolation or quarantine.

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