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We need more time: Motshekga to update SA on Monday on schools reopening

Minister Angie Motshekga is on Monday expected to present the sector’s final plans regarding its so-called phased-in approach to allow the resumption of teaching and learning in the country.

FILE: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG/DURBAN - The Department of Basic Education said it needed more time before it could report back on specific details regarding the resumption of teaching and learning.

Minister Angie Motshekga wants to make sure there’s adequate detail and preparation about when schools can reopen safely as the country deals with the coronavirus.

Parents will have to wait a little bit longer now to get answers on government’s phased in approach on reopening of schools.

Minister Motshekga will now convene a special meeting of the council of education ministers to consider progress made towards the reopening.

"The purpose of the meeting will be to consider the work done by provinces this week including taking deliveries of the COVID-19 Essentials required as preconditions for the reopening of schools," the department said in a statement on Friday.

On Monday, provincial education MECs reported that not all of the schools were ready to open their doors yet and requested more time as they wait for deliveries of materials such as personal protection equipment from suppliers.

“We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise outstanding. So on Monday (18 May), we will reconvene to consider progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness. A lot of work has happened and we are happy with the progress reported in the last meeting but we need confirmation of deliveries that provinces were waiting for,” said Motshekga.

The Department of Basic Education said there were some challenges with the deliveries of PPEs, which led to the cancellation of some contracts with service providers.

Motshekga is expected to present the department’s state of readiness to the public next Monday.

School management teams were scheduled to return to work this week, however, this has been put on hold in most provinces, as they are not yet fully prepared.

In his address to the nation on Wednesday night President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We will immediately begin a process of consultation with the relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4”.

The director general of the Department of Basic Education, Mathanzima Mweli, said the implementation of the basic education sector risk-based differentiated approach in reopening schools would be assisted by the president’s address.

“We will convene a special meeting of the heads of education departments from all provinces and the minister will meet with MECs on Monday to discuss the progress made. Thereafter, we will announce to public. Nobody has experience in managing a crisis of this magnitude so we follow expert advice that why we need to be extremely careful how we proceed in every step,” he said.

CONSTITUTIONALLY SOUND PLANS

As pressure continues to mount for the basic education sector to provide concrete proposals for the reopening of schools, Equal Education is calling for plans that are constitutionally sound.

On Wednesday, Equal Education said over the past two weeks, inconsistent and contradictory information had been communicated regarding the reopening of schools in the country, leading to confusion and anxiety.

The groups said it hoped Motshekga would on Monday provide details on what teachers, caregivers and pupils should expect in preparation for the re-opening of schools.

Equal Education’s Noncedo Madubedube said they also wanted clarity on the implications of some grades possibly being kept at home for an extended period of time.

“We need clear plans detailing resources for the learners at home while we have a phased-in approach support for teaching and learning.”

The group said it hoped the department would make its final plans public to ensure transparency, accountability and a level of confidence among parents, pupils and teachers.

KZN READY TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education said it would be able to resume teaching and learning as soon as it got the go-ahead from President Cyril Ramaphosa and Motshekga.

However, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) begs to differ.

Sadtu's provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said the department had so far failed to sanitise schools, deliver protective gear for education and pupils as well as hire additional staff to assist in curbing the spread of COVID-19 at schools.

Eyewitness News understands that the KZN education department plans to start delivering protective gear to schools over the weekend and it was busy organising work permits for principals and senior management teams so they could start preparing schools before some classes resume in June.

However, Sadtu said no teacher would go back to school until the department met its demands.

Caluza said: “There is no school that is going to be infected, schools must receive PPEs. If that is not done come 1 June, there will be no worker going back to school.”

Meanwhile, Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said his department would require R1 billion from Treasury to ensure safety for all pupils and educators for the rest of the year.