EFF and Sadtu call for closure of EC schools
By Khuthala Nandipha
The South African Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the Eastern Cape have called for the immediate closure of schools. Sadtu has however added that they think Grade 12 learners should continue, but all other Grades must return in summer, around August.
Initially 24 learners tested positive last week with 180 others, which include hostel assistants testing positive this week.
“This virus is widespread and it kills. There is no need for Grade 7 learners to be in school, they have at least another five years of schooling to catch up. We understand the urgency for matric students, handle those numbers only,” said Chris Mdingi, provincial secretary for Sadtu.
The teacher’s union said it will initiate engagements with the department and if the discussions are not fruitful, they will apply other necessary measures.
However, the EFF supports the call by teachers, parents and learners to close all schools in the province as it is ‘suicidal’ to continue while the pandemic, based on government data, shows a sharp increase in a number of new infections.
“70% of schools in the province are found in poverty-stricken areas; townships and villages. These schools are characterised by massive infrastructure backlogs in water provision, sanitation and electricity. It is not rationale to rush to open schools in the province as it would be difficult to maintain social distancing which would make schools centres of cluster outbreaks as we have witnessed with Makaula Senior Secondary School in Mount Frere,” said Commissar Yazini Tetyana, provincial chairperson of the EFF.
The fighters also lashed out at those schools who want to continue with business as usual, which they claim is former Model C schools that want to define themselves outside the parameters set by the Department of Education as they are not affected by the challenges of overcrowding or lack of infrastructure. This, according to the party, is due to the benefits of the racially skewed socio-economic policies of the past which gave us an unequal education system.
“No school principal or School Governing Body (SGB) is above the collective effort to combat the spread of the corona virus. Education must not come at the price of a human life. Children must learn, but not under fear of contracting the virus,” added Tetyana
Meanwhile, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga recently gazetted a set of directions for implementation to further provide clarity and guidance on the phased return of other grades and other matters affecting the basic education sector.
As it stands, Pre-Grade R, 1 – 11 are expected to resume school on July 6, 2020
“We will continue to work hard in schools to make sure that we protect our learners, teachers and employees within schools. What is also important is to ensure that even during school hours and beyond we stick to the basic requirements of wearing the mask, sanitise, wash hands and keep physical distancing,” said Hope Mokgatlhe, spokesperson to Minister Angie Motshekga.
Meanwhile, a school that was declared one of the most ready and safe by MEC Fundile Gade, Nyanga High School eNgcobo, last week 13 out 23 matric learners tested positive, proving that even the strictest of measures cannot guarantee lack of infections.
A principal of an East London school who spoke to us on anonymity said, all safety regulations may be followed but that will not stop the virus from infiltrating schools, as proven in his school that had two teachers test positive on day four of re-opening.
“As if that is not enough, we are expecting Grade R to Grade 6 back next month and I do not have space for them, we have used up all our classrooms for Grade 7,” she said.
The Department of Health has deployed a team of doctors and tracers to Makaula school. Those who came into contact with the 204 people who have tested positive will be traced, screened and tested.
“All learners have been taken out of the school. The last lot has just been dropped at Royal Hotel in Matatiele by EMS. There are three sites used to distribute the positive cases which are 68 patients taken to Royal Hotel in Matatiele, Afrizona in Mt Frere, and some at Tapi River Lodge in Mt Frere. Teams will be attached to these BnBs to manage the patients,” said Sizwe Kupelo, spokesperson for provincial Health.