DBE appeals to ‘critics’ to stop pointing fingers & propose solutions amid COVID

The department said it was unhelpful to continuously blame it as it was dealing with the scourge of the coronavirus for the first time.

FILE: Classroom desks at Talfalah Primary School are fitted with handmade COVID-19 protective screens. Picture: Supplied

DURBAN/CAPE TOWN - The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has appealed to its critics to stop blaming it but to instead propose workable solutions for teaching and learning amid COVID-19.

Major teacher unions including the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and National Teacher’s Union (Natu) have accused the department of failing to provide a clear strategy to ensure the safety of educators working during the pandemic.

The department said it was unhelpful to continuously blame it, as it was dealing with the scourge of the coronavirus for the first time.

Sadtu’s Nomusa Cembi has criticised government’s newly gazetted academic calendar saying many grade 12 teachers won’t have enough time to rest ahead of the next academic year.

“We regard this as being inhumane and proves that the Department of Basic Education cares more about the academic year than the well-being of the workers.”

Sadtu, Naptosa and Natu have accused the department of failing to substitute teachers with co-morbidities.

But the Basic Education Department’s Elijah Mhlanga said this was not true.

“We published an invitation to unemployed qualified teachers to come through to register in the national recruitment database so that they are able to get employment.”

Mhlanga said while they understand that the coronavirus is causing fear among pupils, teachers, parents, and all concerned parties need to work together to find a way to co-exist with the virus.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer said directions gazetted by the Basic Education Department confirmed schools may allow the return of learners other than just matriculants from this week.

The department gazetted directions outlining the phasing in of grades over the next month, after the president announced schools would close for a four-week break, almost two weeks ago.

The Department of Basic Education also released a newly revised school calendar, however, that document has not yet been gazetted.

Schafer said according to the gazetted directions, starting this week, schools may welcome back more grades than just matriculants - provided they are able to implement the required safety measures.

She said the directions stipulate schools must notify the head of department (HOD) that they would have additional grades returning; while those that have already notified the HOD of their intention to deviate from the phasing in of grades prior to 27 July, may continue to do so without submitting a new notification.

Grade 12's returned to the classroom on Monday and grade 7's will join them next Tuesday.

Other grades will be phased in during the rest of the month.

Schafer said despite the president's announcement that the school year will be extended and continue into 2021, it did not correspond with the new revised calendar which states schools will close on 15 December.

“There are still some matters to clear up, including matters of when schools will close. As soon as have clarity on those matters, we will communicate this to our schools.”

Staff members who have not been required to return with Grade 12s and 7s must report for duty on 17 August

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