Most teacher unions which are believed to account for over 90% of all South African schools have agreed that schools that are ready must be opened tomorrow, reports the Sunday Times.
Minister of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Angie Motshekga reportedly spent hours in a meeting with unions and governing body associations on Saturday afternoon.
In this meeting, Motshekga reportedly updated these organisations on the various provinces’ readiness to open.
Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) CEO Paul Colditz said he was confident that all 2,100 schools that are members would reopen on 8 June.
According to Colditz, reports from provincial education MECs and heads of department showed that about 90% of schools are ready to reopen on Monday.
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said South Africa has reached the stage where it is “almost impossible to continually keep schools closed”.
“There are many schools in provinces that are ready and we believe the time is right now to open the schools,” said Manuel.
Doubt regarding schools reopening
When MyBroadband spoke with experts and unions last week, they were doubtful of whether schools would be ready to open on 8 June.
“We believe 8 June will not give schools sufficient time to prepare,” said teachers’ union SADTU.
It also urged the government to do its best to ensure that all schools are fully compliant before schools open.
“We are aware there are some schools that are more than prepared to open but we feel it would be unfair to have a staggered approach to the opening as this will further increase the gap of inequality in the education system,” it said.
The SAOU indicated that it had welcomed Motshekga’s decision to postpone the initial 1 June reopening of schools, but was concerned that not all provinces would operate under similar readiness levels to Gauteng and the Western Cape.
“The feedback that we get from schools in Limpopo, KZN, North West, and Mpumalanga is that they were not even 50% ready,” said the SAOU.
Despite these worries, it hoped that the additional few days before 8 June would provide the DBE and schools with enough time to prepare schools for the return of Grade 7 and 12 learners.
Western Cape returned to school
While most schools across the country were held back from reopening by a week, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) went ahead with the reopening of schools.
While reports indicated that the South African Human Rights Committee (SAHRC) intended to take the department to court over this decision, the WCED maintained that it was operating within the bounds of regulations.
“The 1 June opening date was gazetted this past Friday [29 May] as the date for Grade 7 and 12 learners,” said Kerry Mauchline, spokesperson for WCED Minister Debbie Schafer.
“The national minister confirmed in her briefing that schools that are ready can proceed with the orientation of learners.”
Schafer was heavily critical of the SAHRC’s rumoured legal action.
“I find it incomprehensible that a body that is constitutionally mandated to protect human rights, of which education is one of the most fundamental, wants to challenge a province that is acting in accordance with the Minister’s request to get schools ready for 1 June, which has been gazetted,” said Schafer.
She added that the argument against reopening schools that are ready is misplaced.
“The poor learners are suffering now. Wealthy learners are continuing with learning from home, where they have the resources to do so,” said Schafer.
“The argument is equivalent to saying that if a car has a flat tyre then we must make all other tyres flat, rather than fix the flat tyre.”