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The waiting game on education: Will we finally hear from Motshekga today?

This was not the first time a school readiness briefing by the minister was postponed.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN/DURBAN/JOHANNESBURG - The country waited with bated breath on Sunday night for the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to address the nation on schools’ readiness to reopen partially on Monday.

But Motshekga’s briefing was postponed a few hours before it was meant to start. The briefing was rescheduled to take place at 11 am on Monday to give the minister more time to consult.

This was not the first time a school readiness briefing by Motshekga was postponed.

Earlier in May, a delay in an address by the minister was apparently caused by provinces requesting more time while waiting for the delivery of personal protective equipment.

And in April, a briefing by Motshekga and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande was rescheduled.

National governing body associations and teachers’ unions have pleaded with Motshekga to postpone the reopening of schools, fearing they would become COVID-19 hotbeds.

They warned too many schools, especially those in rural areas, were not ready to receive learners.

SCHOOLS NOT READY TO REOPEN - DBE

Meanwhile, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) conceded that a substantial number of schools were not ready to reopen, which was what teachers’ unions were saying for a while now.

The DBE announced that school management teams, teachers, and non-teaching staff would return to work on Monday morning to prepare for the arrival of pupils next week.

School governing bodies (SGB) in KwaZulu-Natal warned the provincial education department would need more than a week to prepare schools.

Governing bodies at more than 400 schools that were vandalised since the start of the lockdown said they were still waiting for water tanks and mobile classes to be delivered.

Mzuvele High School in KwaMashu, north of Durban, was among the affected schools. The SGB at the school said government needed to urgently address issues of sanitation before they could encourage pupils to return.

The chairperson of the SGB, Bongani Khumalo, said the school had not met safety and hygiene standards to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Our pupil-teacher ratio is between 1:80. Water is very inefficient, toilets get blocked every day and they’re not up to standard, and classroom windows and doors are broken,” Khumalo said.

Khumalo said the provincial education department had failed to fulfill its promises to the school in the aftermath of a recent arson attack at the institution.

“Nothing that was promised has been done and we don’t think these issues we are raising will be resolved this week. We believe that this is not the time to send learners back to school yet,” he said.

KZN Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said the province was in desperate need of financial assistance to the tune of R1 billion to cater for the province’s over 6,000 schools until December.

LESUFI BACKS DBE DECISION

At the same time, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi on Monday came out in support of Motshekga’s decision to cancel the reopening of schools.

Lesufi said although Gauteng schools were ready to receive grade 7 and matric pupils after two months, all schools in the country should be on the same page before teaching could resume.

He conceded that issues of inequality at schools like a lack of electricity or water would not be resolved in one week.

“By Tuesday last week, she had four court cases to fight off. There were four institutions that went to court and they all lost those cases against the minister. I think she chose sector peace as parents were worried and not ignore people’s concerns,” Lesufi said.

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