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Education groups, unions criticise DBE’s plan to reopen schools

Earlier on Wednesday, director general Mathanzima Mweli presented the sector’s COVID-19 plan in Parliament, which coud see matrics and grades 7s being the first group of pupils to return to their classrooms.

Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - Education groups and unions have criticised the Basic Education Department’s tentative plan to reopen schools from as early as next week.

Earlier on Wednesday, director general Mathanzima Mweli presented the sector’s COVID-19 plan in Parliament, which may see matrics and grades 7s being the first group of pupils to return to their classrooms as of next month.

Organisations including the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and Congress of South African Students (Cosas) have rejected the proposal by the department, adding the sector was far from ready for any teaching and learning to resume.

The Basic Education Department has finally revealed how it plans to save the 2020 academic year, despite over 3,000 schools still being in need of water supply among other serious issues.

Naptosa’s Basil Manuel said many provinces were simply not equipped for any schooling to resume in the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Sadtu’s Nomusa Cembi shared the same sentiment.

Meanwhile, student organisation Cosas said the reopening of schools during this period would be the quickest way of transporting the virus to the most vulnerable in society.

PUPILS WITH UNDERLYING ISSUES

Pupils with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma will be advised to continue learning from home once the phased reopening of schools gets under way.

Mweli said: “Such children will be advised to learn from home and we’ll be working with the association for home education to make sure that those learners are supported.”

Teachers who are over 60 years old will also be advised to work from home or take leave on full pay.

Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule said: “People who are 60 years old and above should be encouraged to work from home. So, we cannot take retired teachers, we’ll be putting them at risk. We have teachers who are still not employed and at the age of 28 and 30, if there is a need, they will come on board.”

WCED NOT READY TO TAKE IN PUPILS

While the Department of Basic Education is yet to announce clear plans for the phased reopening of schools, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said it was not in a position to receive pupils next week.

MEC Debbie Schäfer said the dates proposed by the national government were not definite and do not constitute an official announcement.

Schäfer said this had caused confusion and anxiety for schools, teachers and parents.

“The minister of education is scheduled to make an announcement tomorrow at 10 am on the plan to reopen schools and we will only be in a position to comment in more detail after that. However, we will not be in a position to receive learners next week.”