DA slams Ramaphosa for 'bowing to union pressure' to close schools

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has criticised the president's decision to close schools.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has criticised the president's decision to close schools.
Image: Werner Hills

DA leader John Steenhuisen has slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to close public schools for a month, saying the president has “bent the knee to all-powerful teachers’ unions”. 

This is after Ramaphosa announced the closure of schools for four weeks and told the nation that the current school year will go beyond 2020.

Steenhuisen labelled Ramaphosa a “spectator president” who had “bent the knee to all-powerful teachers’ unions, in particular Sadtu, who do not have the best interests of learners at heart”.

“This is not leadership — President Ramaphosa is behaving like a 'spectator president', taking instructions from whichever powerful interest group threatens him more,” he said.

“This decision is not supported by the best available evidence, it is not supported by education experts, and it is not supported by the virus data. The scientific evidence is that schools do not expose learners and staff to higher levels of risk than any other places.”

Steenhuisen said closing schools would have a devastating effect on children for years to come and would make inequality worse. He said many learners would drop out as a result and possibly never return to school, or will fall behind to the point that they can never catch up.

He said the evidence was that learners practise better physical distancing and hygiene measures at school than they do outside school, where they may be unsupervised.

Motshekga: schools are a microcosm of society

However, basic education minister Angie Motshekga welcomed the president's decision.

“Some parts of the country have been experiencing an increase in community infections, which have led to high levels of psychological and emotional stress. This has spilt over into schools as schools are a microcosm of society,” she said.

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“The impact of Covid-19 has also led to the health system being overstretched and some schools taking a strain.”

She said it was important to remember that the government’s decision to gradually lift the lockdown was — and still is — predicated on saving lives and livelihoods.

“Schooling is very much part of our livelihood. Schools, and indeed the system, are dealing with a completely new environment.

“The basic education system needs to be afforded the opportunity and space to gradually settle in dealing with the new normal of operating under Covid-19, in line with the risk-adjusted differentiated approach in reopening schools.”

The minister also called for communities to protect schools from vandalism during this period and urged parents, teachers and learners to continue with school work.

“Schools must make arrangements with parents for learners to get work or materials for them to remain fully engaged during the break. Learners should also be given work as they collect food or when they leave on July 24.”

© TimesLIVE

President Cyril Ramaphosa answered questions from MPs on Thursday August 27 2020 relating to Covid-19 corruption and gender-based violence. Things got heated between DA interim leader John Steenhuisen and Ramaphosa. Here are four key points from the Q&A session.

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