Johannesburg – While Equal Education remains firm that sending learners back to school amid the Covid-19 pandemic is too risky, former DA leader Mmusi Maimane is hitting the ground running with a petition against classes being resumed.
Maimane, now chief activist of One South Africa Movement, accused the department of rushing to open up schools which he described as a “gamble with the lives of our children”.
“They are not ready to deliver masks for the learners. I highly doubt that the department with the track record it has had in the last 10 years will miraculously be ready in 11 days. This is not a new team. It’s a department we all know very well. We know their capabilities,” he said.
By yesterday afternoon, the petition had garnered over 31000 signatures.
Equal Education deputy general secretary Tracey Malawana said it was too risky to send pupils to schools that were ill-equipped to deal with the virus infection.
“It is important that the required measures are put in place to ensure that pupils are safe within school. We speak about the importance of water, adequate sanitation, masks, sanitisers and social distancing on June 1, will all of those things be within the school premises?” she asked.
Meanwhile, the DA said learners with underlying conditions which make them vulnerable to Covid-19 and whose parents cannot teach them at home would have to repeat their grades next year.
The party said while it welcomed Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement on the reopening of schools, schools that were not ready to provide protective equipment should be barred from reopening.
“There are many parents who can take the responsibility of their children’s education, as there are many middle-class parents who might not want their children to go to school, they must do it (teach their children). But if you are working class and don’t have that kind of background (education), your child is going to have to repeat the year,” said DA MP Belinda Bozzoli.
When asked what would happen to children with conditions such as asthma, who would be vulnerable to Covid-19, Motshekga said their situation would not be guaranteed.
The DA said both national and provincial education departments should conduct an assessment to determine why each school should be reopened or remain closed.
The ANC, however, said it believed stringent health and safety measures would be enough to protect schools from the virus.
“The success of the safety plans in schools will also depend on the co-operation of stakeholders in the sector, including all citizens, particularly in public spaces such as taxis, buses, trains on the way to work and back,” spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement.
However, KwaZulu-Natal School Governing Body Association chairperson Vee Gani said parents feared that not enough had been done to prevent the infection.
“Some of the educators are sickly and vulnerable, and they might not come to school; as a result we may have a shortage of educators in a number of schools,” he said.
In a joint statement, teacher unions Sadtu, Naptosa, SAOU, Natu and PEU said they had conducted their own survey, which had found that most schools were not ready.
“For example, 79% of the respondents report they have not received regulations on how to deal with health and safety issues, when 60% report their circuit manager has not yet been in touch with them and when 92% of respondents report offices have not yet been cleaned and sanitised But the minister cleverly deflected these real facts by stating that school readiness will progress as we count down to the reopening,” read the statement.
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s special #Coronavirus page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za
By Bongani Hans