Teacher unions flex muscles

Safety oversight role demanded

Teacher unions have demanded that Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and provincial education MECs secure union leaders permits to be able to travel to districts to monitor if the department is complying with safety measures the government has committed to before reopening schools.

Motshekga said this week the proposed date for the resumption of schooling for pupils in grade 12 and grade 7 is June 1, provided all the necessary measures are in place and approved by the national command council.

In a joint statement, the South African Democratic Teachers Union, National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, National Teachers’ Union and SA Onderwysunie requested an urgent meeting with Motshekga over the reopening of district and circuit offices, and the required number of sta.

“Our provincial secretaries will also request urgent meetings with the MECs and heads of departments in provinces to monitor the plan by the minister and further provincial plans. These meetings must happen before the 6th and, on the 10th [of May], we shall request a final meeting with the minister to tick the box of all the non-negotiables,” the unions said.

“If there is no progress the minister will be required, in the interest of transparency, to address the nation about the reasons and how the challenges are being addressed. Workers will not be expected to report for duty because there will be no safety.”

There is great unease among teachers and school principals on government’s proposed plan to reopen schools by next month. This is as the Department of Basic Education scrambles to get its house in order and make its facilities ready to welcome back millions of pupils in a phased approach.

Mary Skhosana, an English teacher at Palm Ridge Primary School, said the discussions and proposals to reopen schools are too high-level and don’t adequately address the concerns of teachers.

“We hear a lot of things being said. I certainly hope that they don’t expect us to be the ones who will be sanitising and screening our learners. We already have loads of work on our laps,” Skhosana said.

The principal of a school in the Free State, who wished not to be named, said she was worried about the safety of her more than 600 pupils and teachers.

“My school is the only high school in the whole township. We have classes with 65 learners and only have eight toilets divided between boys and girls,” the principal said.

“We have supplied this information to the department as requested last week. “The risk is that teachers will have their hands full trying to enforce whatever measures government puts in place, taking away precious time from teaching and learning.”

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