Schools in some provinces are still waiting for personal protective equipment (PPEs) to be delivered and remain unprepared for the return of Grade 7 and 12 learners on 1 June.
This is according to South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) operational director Johan Kruger, who told MyBroadband it is aware of issues in both the North West and Mpumalanga.
“Unfortunately, the information that the minister communicates to the media doesn’t correspond with the information that we receive from the schools,” said Kruger.
“The feedback that we get sketches a bleak picture.”
Kruger said the majority of schools in provinces including Limpopo, North West, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal have not been disinfected, and many are still waiting for PPEs to be delivered.
For this reason, Kruger said he can’t see schools in these provinces being ready to receive learners on 1 June.
Kruger provided the example of the North West, where senior management teams (SMTs) and educators were told to report for duty on 25 May.
However, on 21 May, unions received feedback from the North West Department of Education (NWDE) which made it clear to the unions that the NWDE was not ready to send educators back to school.
“The unions warned the NWDE that educators will not report for duty if the non-negotiables (PPEs) were not in place,” said Kruger.
As of 24 May, it was communicated to educators and unions in the province that SMTs should only return to school on 27 May, and educators on 28 May.
The next day, this was further amended so that SMTs returned on 27 May, but educators would be told when to return at a later date.
“This is a clear indication that the department is overwhelmed regarding the whole situation,” said Kruger.
“The schools in North West I phoned informed me that they did not get any assistance from the NWDE,” said Kruger.
“They sanitized their own schools and procured their own PPEs. The schools that did receive PPEs said they were inadequate.”
North West responds
The NWDE confirmed that the original return date for SMTs and teachers of 25 May was delayed.
It said this was because “other schools were not ready,” a spokesperson said.
It confirmed that SMTs returned on 27 May, and said that teachers will report to work on 29 May.
When asked if North West schools are ready for the return of SMTs and teachers – following the claim by the SAOU that not all schools had been catered to properly – the spokesperson said the NWDE is aiming for all the necessary deliveries and preparations to have been made by 1 June.
“PPEs are being continually delivered to different schools and we are hopeful that on the 1 June we shall have addressed all shortages,” said the spokesperson.
They also confirmed that if schools are not ready by 1 June, they will not be allowed to open.
“We are really hopeful that all schools shall be covered [by 1 June], however a school may not open if all the COVID-19 non-negotiables are not covered,” the spokesperson said.