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Private nursery schools may reopen if Covid-19 measures are in place, says court


Gauteng High Court Judge Hans Fabricius has overturned government regulations that early childhood development remain closed under lockdown level 3.

Picture: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

Pretoria – All private nursery schools, offering early childhood development may open their doors immediately if they have adequate safety measures in place.

This follows a judgment by Gauteng High Court Judge Hans Fabricius who overturned governments’ regulations that these institutions remained closed under lockdown level 3.

Trade union Solidarity, Bronkieland Nursery School in Bronkhorstspruit and an organisation called the Schools Support Centre turned to court on an urgent basis as there was uncertainty about when private pre-school centres could open.

Dirk Hermann, the chairperson of the board of directors of schools support centre said in an affidavit file that this application concerns the rights and interests of children and their right to basic education.

He said following the level 3 regulations which were published at the end of last month, there was great uncertainty regarding the opening of private pre-schools. While the regulations provided for the phasing in of learners at schools, the terms “ schools” referred to public and independent schools.

The regulations did state that Grade R’s and other grades will be phased in from this week,, but there was uncertainty as to whether these include pre-schools which do not fall under the Schools Act and under the department of basic education. Melanie Buys, head of development at the schools support centre, said. 

“During lockdown, the reopening of schools and private nursery schools has caused constant uncertainty among parents, learners and teachers.”

The applicants said they believe that private nursery schools should also be allowed to resume teaching in July, together with the other nursery schools. They say children of all ages have a right to basic education and that the refusal to let these schools reopen denies children of that right. The applicants did send letters to the government to clarify the position, but up to the point of heading to court, they heard nothing.

Judge Fabricius said he had already written his draft judgment and gave it to his registrar to type, when he suddenly received a notice from government asking him not to entertain the matter as it “has become moot.”

The judge said he was “to put it mildly, rather surprised” when he received this notice out of the blue. Government’s stance was that it had since issued more notices regarding the situation under level 3, including the closure of preschools, thus the matter had moved on since the notice to which the applicants had objected.

But the subsequent notices still placed a ban on the opening of private nursery schools and early childhood development centres linked to these preschools. The judge voiced his disappointment in the way in which the government handled this issue which dealt with the rights of children and slapped the government with a punitive costs order.