Education Minister delays address on back-to-school plans

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has issued a statement saying it will only report to the public on schools’ readiness on Monday 18 May.

The DBE previously told MyBroadband that it would address the public today, 14 May, and would provide guidance to schools on a number of important issues.

However, it made no reference to this in its statement.

“We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise outstanding [matters],” said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

“So on Monday 18 May, we will reconvene to consider the progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness.”

Director-General of the DBE Mathanzima Mweli said the basic education sector’s plans are based on three key factors:

  • Saving lives is the overriding consideration.
  • Saving the academic year is crucial.
  • Risk assessment and mitigation, as well as monitoring and evaluation, are important safeguards of the plan.

“The Minister will address a media briefing after receiving full reports from all provinces on the readiness to open schools,” said Mweli.

“We appeal for patience as we work to find the best way forward under the circumstances.”

Communication lacking

The delay of Motshekga’s speech follows heavy criticism of the DBE’s handling of the situation.

Teachers’ unions NATU, NAPTOSA, PEU, SADTU, and SAOU published a combined statement which claimed that the DBE is not playing ball.

“The manner in which the department is conducting itself on the consultations is causing a trust deficit with the unions and this must be addressed,” said the unions.

They complained that several of their concerns – such as those pertaining to how comorbidities will be treated – are yet to be clarified by the government.

With most SMTs expected to return to schools on 18 May, information like this is of critical importance so that schools know who must and who must not return and make plans accordingly.

Additionally, the unions said the DBE had wrongfully implied in a previous statement that they had agreed with its plans.

“The DBE [must] desist from misleading the public about unions having agreed on everything,” they said.

“The unions are disturbed by this ‘we are all in this together’ if it means that the DBE is consulting to legitimise its top-down decisions.”

Reallocation of PPEs

According to Motshekga, the delays in deliverables is because of challenges with PPE suppliers – resulting in the cancellation of contracts with these suppliers.

She said that because of this, various provinces had to find new suppliers to deliver the materials this week.

However, while Motshekga placed the blame squarely on PPE suppliers, a letter sent to Eastern Cape schools and seen by MyBroadband shows that this was not always the case.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) said it had originally been obliged to place procurement orders with the National Treasury.

However, it was informed on 6 May that all personal protective equipment (PPE) which was procured by the National Treasury would be re-prioritised to the Department of Health.

This has resulted in it having to source its own PPEs – the tender application for which only closed yesterday.

Now read: Learners and teachers with underlying conditions – Guidance needed on back-to-school plans

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Education Minister delays address on back-to-school plans