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‘NC schools not ready to reopen’

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This was the unanimous sentiment of teacher unions in the Province.

THE NORTHERN Cape is not ready for the return of teachers and pupils to the classroom.

This was the unanimous sentiment of teacher unions in the Province, which indicated that the provincial Department of Education does not have its house in order for the return of teachers on Monday, May 25.

The unions said it was highly unlikely that teachers in the Northern Cape would report for duty on Monday.

The provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), Senzo Mpalala, said there are still many requirements the department still needed to meet before schools could reopen.

“The schools in the Northern Cape are not yet ready to open. There are more than 100 schools that have not yet been sanitised, while many have indicated that they have also not received any personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Mpalala yesterday.

“The Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, said that there should be training for principals on screening. That has not taken place in the Northern Cape. The minister is exposed to the situation regarding schools in Gauteng and does not have a picture of other provinces and districts like John Taolo Gaetsewe (in the Northern Cape). We have many schools in rural areas that do not have running water and water tanks still need to be delivered to these areas. There were strict measures stipulated by the World Health Organization on what should be in place before the schools can open safely. We are still very far behind on the work that still needs to be done.”

Mpalala said the safety of teachers and pupils should be paramount.

“We agree with the department that pupils and teachers need to return to teaching in the classroom. However, we cannot just do things because they are right. We also have to ensure that we do things correctly. We cannot expose our pupils and teachers, especially those in rural and poor areas, to a dangerous environment. The unions have been meeting with the department to come to a consensus and we agreed that we will send our members back to school but only if the department meets all the required measures.”

The provincial secretary of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), Henk Brand, shared the same sentiments as Sadtu.

“Teachers are supposed to return to school from May 25. However, there have been no preparations made for the return of teachers. The Department of Education has placed orders for PPE but the delivery of this equipment is a challenge due to the Covid-19 regulations. The suppliers still need to deliver PPEs to the Northern Cape as there are no suppliers in the Province. From a provincial perspective, the equipment needs to be distributed to the different districts. There are also screeners and cleaners who still need to be employed by the department. These people were recruited by the department but have not yet been appointed. The administration side of this process is finalised but the practical side is lagging far behind,” said Brand.

He added that there was no certainty that schools would be ready in time for the return of pupils on June 1.

“There is still a lot of work, ranging from the sanitising of schools, receiving PPEs and the appointment of staff, that needs to be done. The minister indicated that schools cannot open if all required regulations are not met. In the case of the Northern Cape, we are not ready,” said Brand.

The provincial chief executive officer of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), Gregg Titus, agreed that the Northern Cape was not ready.

“We have non-negotiable requirements, like PPE for educators, masks for pupils, sanitisers and screeners, that still need to be acquired by the Department of Education. For us to expect educators and non-teaching staff to return to school would be irresponsible. There seems to be a vacuum between what the minister said and what is truly happening on the ground. We are fighting an invisible virus and we need to take every precaution,” said Titus.

He admitted that it was a challenging matter for all.

“We have never been faced with such a pandemic and cannot do a review on it. One understands that this is the first time we are faced with such a pandemic. We need to take everyone’s health and safety into account,” said Titus.