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Teacher union tells members set to return to school to stay at home

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Across the country, school management, education assistants and general assistants were expected back at school today.

Across the country, school management, education assistants and general assistants were expected back at school today while teachers were expected to return on February 1 REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Durban – THE NATIONAL Teachers Union (Natu) has called on all its members who were set to return to school today, to stay home.

Across the country, school management, education assistants and general assistants were expected back at school today while teachers were expected to return on February 1.

Natu said it made this decision after “persistent” calls from its members and due to the lack of meaningful consultations with the Department of Education to raise concerns around the health risk of opening schools now.

Natu said nothing had changed about the pandemic since the reopening of schools had been postponed with the health risks remaining largely the same.

“Throughout last year – and so far, this year – the department has failed to engage with the unions honestly, meaningfully and constructively. This has resulted in many problems, including the impasse we are currently trying to navigate,” said Natu general secretary Cynthia Barnes.

President of the South African Principals’ Association (Sapa) in KZN Linda Shezi said the delay in starting the academic year came out of the concern to not overburden the healthcare system.

“The second wave, driven by the second variant of Covid-19, has a higher transmission rate. Statistics also show that teenagers are also potentially vulnerable. A thorough review of the impact this delay has had needs to be determined,” said Shezi.

“We welcome decisions based on scientific research. We welcome consultations with stakeholders in order to make decisions informed by analysis of scientific stats and cautious planning which puts safety and security first. Sapa is concerned about the delay in academic progress of our pupils but we remain confident that the men and women in education, and in particular in the classrooms, will be able to put plans in place to mitigate against academic loss. We have done this before.”

He said Sapa mourned the lives of colleagues lost through the pandemic and sent sincere condolences to families and schools affected.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) said it and the other unions were not drawn into Natu’s confidence when they made this decision.

“Naptosa bears no knowledge of it. We are certainly not calling for this action by our members as we have not declared a strike. Simply staying away would expose members to disciplinary action and loss of salary. While we do believe the Department of Basic Education has erred in its decision, we have not exhausted all channels yet,” said Naptosa’s executive director Basil Manuel.

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