Union says Department of Basic Education has failed to meet the minimum requirements to ensure safety of pupils and teachers
THE SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said on Friday night it won’t allow any of its members to report for duty on Monday because the Department of Basic Education has failed to meet the minimum requirements to ensure Level 4 safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Personal protective equipment (PPE) has not been procured for office-based personnel, school-based educators and education support personnel. The disinfecting of schools and offices has not even reached 25 percent,” the union stated.
Sadtu said it is “unlawful to expect workers to report for duty when their safety is not guaranteed. The union has an obligation to advise its members not to put their safety and that of their families and communities in danger by reporting for duty before these safety precautions are in place”.
On April 30, the Basic Education Minister announced that management teams would report to schools on Monday while teachers would return on May 18.
“She (Angie Motshekga) committed that non-negotiables would be delivered to schools before they opened. These included, among others, the fumigation and disinfection; proper infrastructure in the form of toilet facilities; observance of social distancing inside classrooms and on courtyards; reduction of class sizes; provision of soap, sanitisers and masks; screening of pupils, teachers and support personnel; social distancing in the transportation of pupils to and from schools; provision of psychosocial services to assist pupils as well as teachers to build resilience and calm down fears among pupils and teachers.”
Sadtu said it called on the department to comply “as we don’t want the lives of our members to be in danger”.
“We call on our members who were to travel from various provinces to remain safe in their homes until the amendment of the regulations by the competent authority as requested by teacher unions. The department should relieve the workers, who commute between the provinces on a daily basis, from the burden of anxiety by providing clarity on how they should commute.”
Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the department, commended Sadtu. “They are doing the right thing. The department went first to inform officials in provinces that they should not report for work on Monday because the preparations have not been finalised.
“The safety measures cannot be compromised. We cannot risk lives – rather they stay home until everything is ready,” he said.
Provinces were at different stages of preparation, he said, and would be informed when staff would return.