It is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t for the Department of Basic Education, led by Minister Angie Motshekga, following government’s decision to close schools again amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
Teacher unions and school governing bodies (SGBs) have largely welcomed the decision and urged the department to use the move to get its house in order to ensure all public schools have personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies.
Kabelo Mahlobogwane, spokesperson of the Educators Union of SA, said that teachers and pupils must not go back to class with more than 80 children in one classroom.
“The government needs to use this closure of schools to try and bridge the gap that is widening [between private and public schools] daily and stop focusing on looting COVID-19 relief funds. We maintain that all we mention will not be possible under an education department that is led by Minister Angelina Motshekga,” he said.
The cabinet’s decision to close public schools for four weeks has been met with both praise and scorn. The DA has already indicated its intention to seek a judicial review of government’s decision to close schools.
Debbie Schäfer, MEC for education in the Western Cape, slammed government’s decision to close public schools. “People who continue calling for schools to shut down clearly either do not understand the implications on the system and the children, or do not care. Research has shown that the negative effects of closing schools are profound,” Schäfer said.
Motshekga said pupils were better off at school, despite cabinet’s decision. “It is important to bear in mind that the latest opinions of the ministerial advisory committee, medical and science experts is that learners are better [off] at school than in communities where the infections are actually taking place,” she said.