Cape Town – The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) planned reopening of schools next week has been met with stiff opposition by teacher unions, while the provincial department says it will not be in a position to receive pupils.

The DBE made a presentation to MPs yesterday on the reopening of schools, with teachers returning on May 4 and pupils in grades 7 and 12 two days later.

More details will be shared at a planned national briefing today.

In a statement Sadtu said it stood by its position that schools should not open until its concerns were met.

“The minister should meet with stakeholders before any announcement and after making sure that the Department of Health expertly assessed the risks,” Sadtu said

“We have called upon everyone to contribute towards the solution but it is clear that the Department of Basic Education is engaging in bad faith and this is undesirable when we are faced with a virulent and contagious pandemic.

“We can’t allow them to liquidate our workers and students,” the union said.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation (Naptosa) president Basil Manuel said they were surprised by the presentation.

“We are not convinced as Naptosa that everything is in place in our schools and provinces to even consider a date of the 4th and 6th,” Manuel said.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the dates announced were not definite and today’s briefing would shed more light.

“We will only be in a position to comment in more detail after that. However, we will not be in a position to receive learners next week,” Schäfer said.

In his presentation to MPs, director-general Mathanzima Mweli said the plan was that grades would be phased in, starting with Grades 7 and 12 returning to school next Wednesday.

The other grades would begin classes in staggered phases between May and July.

Grades 11 and 6 start classes on May 20, Grades 10 and 5 on June 3, Grades 9 and 4 on June 17, Grades 8 and 3 on July 1, Grades 2 and 1 on July 8 and Grade R on July 15.

Mweli indicated that the proposed dates were likely to be changed.

He also said the lost school days would be recovered by shortening the June holidays to five days and the September holiday to a long weekend in order to make up for these days.

“The fourth term will also be lengthened to close on 9 December for learners and 11 December for teachers,” Mweli said.

Tertiary institutions were working around the clock to resume academic activities in the beginning of May.

The Department of Higher Education and Training had initially issued directives to universities two weeks ago to start online learning from May 4, emphasising fair opportunity for completion for all students.

Today the department will give an update and further pronouncements on the continuation of the 2020 academic year amid Covid-19.

Cape universities were working on delivering study resources to ensure thousands of students were not left behind.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology spokesperson Lauren Kansley said they were waiting for further announcements on higher education before making any firm decisions.

University of the Western Cape spokesperson Gasant Abarder said the distribution of laptops and printed material via courier services had been gazetted as an essential service.

“Lecturers have been advised to refrain from data intensive content like video and graphics and stick to text as far as possible so that the students can save data.”

Stellenbosch University (SU) spokesperson Martin Viljoen said so far students had expressed relatively positive experiences with e-learning.

“However, the university’s main learning and teaching platform, SUNLearn, is under pressure due to the number of students using the platform. This resulted in the platform at times not functioning optimally.

“Nearly 1 100 laptops have been distributed to students. Students were also informed of data made available in order for them to access the SUNLearn platform,” said Viljoen.

UCT’s Elijah Moholola said the institution was continuing with laptop deliveries and data for students, and hoped to complete this by May 8.

“UCT notes that the delays with data provisioning and laptop deliveries will have a knock-on effect on the ability of some students to join in the teaching term.

“Since the teaching and learning offerings are asynchronous, allowing students to engage with learning in their own time, there is no risk of students missing anything.”

Cape Times

By Liesl Van Der Schyff