The Eastern Cape Department of Education has confirmed that one of its personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers, Mkhiva Trading, has been found to be delivering sub-par hand sanitisers.
These hand sanitisers, which were delivered to a number of schools in the kwaBhaca area, have been found to have been delivered in “inappropriate containers” and contain less than the required alcohol content.
The department said it had followed up on complaints about the PPE delivered by Mkhiva Trading by commissioning Rhodes University scientists to test suspect samples of sanitisers.
The results found that some of these sanitisers had alcohol content as low as 4%.
“What this service provider has done is utterly shameful and unethical. Their carelessness and shoddy workmanship have effectively put the lives of children and teachers in danger,” said MEC Fundile Gade.
“We are currently consulting with our legal team and we will make sure that the law takes its course. Furthermore, we will write to the provincial treasury to ask that they are immediately blacklisted from doing business with the government ever again.”
The department said that defective sanitisers have been removed and replaced with the appropriate materials.
“The Department has immediately moved to block payments to Mkhiva Trading or any other entity that delivers substandard goods,” said the department.
Government in discussions over whether schools should remain open
Situations like this may add momentum to the arguments many unions are making for the shutting down of schools.
Department of Basic Education (DBE) minister Angie Motshekga was in discussions with various stakeholders last week regarding whether schools should remain open.
Many unions are pushing for the department to shut down schools due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
SADTU general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said that it is most important to save lives.
“We cannot, as a developing country, adopt the Western countries’ approach in building community immunity by sacrificing lives. We must protect the public by suppressing transmission,” said Maluleke.
Professional Educators’ Union president Johannes Motona agreed that schools should not remain open.
“More and more cases are being reported, and this makes the school environment not conducive for quality teaching and learning because there is a lot of anxiety for teachers and pupils,” said Motona.
In response, Motshekga reportedly highlighted the question of whether teachers should be paid while not working.
A DBE representative said that doing this could set a bad precedent for the future.
“This could just demoralise the whole public service,” said the representative.