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Bishop Lavis parents protest against reopening of schools

The Bishop Lavis Action Community group said schools were simply not ready to open on Monday and next week.

A video screengrab of a small group of parents on 1 June 2020 protesting the reopening of schools at Bergville Primary School in Bishop Lavis.

CAPE TOWN/DURBAN – A small group of parents on Monday arrived at Bergville Primary School in Bishop Lavis in protest against the reopening of schools.

The Bishop Lavis Action Community group said schools were simply not ready to open on Monday and next week.

The group gathered at the gates of the school where teachers arrived, yet there were no grade 7 pupils in sight. The gates remained closed as teachers were uncertain if learners would arrive at school.

One parent, Victor Alterstead, said allowing kids back now was too big of a risk.

The school said it had 48 grade 7 pupils and the plan was for them to be divided into four groups to maintain social distancing.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Department of Education insisted schools in the province could reopen on Monday.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer said pupils, teachers, and parents could not be left in limbo any longer.

However, the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) at the 11th hour on Sunday pulled back announcing pupils would only be expected back in the classroom in a week’s time.

In a statement, the DBE conceded a substantial number of schools were not ready to reopen, which was what teachers’ unions had been saying for weeks.

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said a meeting was held over the weekend to discuss if schools were in fact ready to reopen.

“All the reports we received indicated that a substantial number of schools are not ready to open on 1 June,” Mhlanga said.

SITUATION IN KZN

At the same time, teachers’ unions and school governing bodies in KwaZulu-Natal said COVID-19 had exposed years of infrastructure neglect by the DBE.

Unions and governing body representatives have told Eyewitness News that schools would not be able to resume teaching next Monday due to various problems including poor sanitation.

This as KZN Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu is expected to outline the province’s state-of-readiness to resume classes next week.

The National Teachers Union’s (Natu) president Alan Thompson said the province was facing a backlog in providing essential services such as water to schools.

“We have the schools that were earmarked to received water tanks [and] some water tanks were delivered but not properly installed. Tankers never came to fill those empty tanks with water,” Thompson said.

Natu, together with Sadtu and Naptosa, were encouraging teachers to stay away from schools with many still without the required safety gear.

Despite that, Mshengu insisted the academic year would proceed. He had, however, previously admitted that the province did not have all the funds it needed to support schools in the fight against COVID-19.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.