Trade union Solidarity has issued an ultimatum to the government to announce regulations for the reopening of independent and private nursery schools or face legal action.
In a statement on Thursday, Solidarity said its Professional Guild for Social Workers and the Schools Support Centre (SSC) had written a letter to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu on the matter.
“Should the Ministers in question not respond, an urgent application will be brought before the Pretoria high court,” the union said.
‘Reopen on 6 July’
Last week, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga published directions for the phased-in return of learners, educators and officials to schools. According to her gazette notice, grade R learners were scheduled to return on 6 July.
However, Melanie Buys, SSC’s head of development, said these directions only apply to schools registered with the Department of Education. Private nursery schools that fall under the Department of Social Development are therefore excluded, she said.
The Guild and SCC want private nursery schools to also open on 6 July. Marisa Engelbrecht, the Guild’s sector head, said, “This state of affairs not only denies children their rights, but also the staff working at those schools.
“The staff is denied the right to work and to earn an income through the service they provide. The service they provide is of crucial importance for the development of young children who benefit from the educational stimulation they get at these schools and denying them this stimulation can have far-reaching consequences for their school careers.”
The phased-in reopening of schools, which was initially scheduled to begin on 1 June for grades 7 and 12, was delayed by a week following lack of preparedness concerns. It is unclear at this stage if this would affect the reopening of grade R.
Buys and Engelbrecht said the uncertainty is also exacerbating “social distress” because thousands of nursery school learners “benefit from nutrition projects run at nursery schools where they receive their only food for the day.”
“Many parents of young children returned to work under [alert] level 3. In this respect, nursery schools provide an essential service to parents as far as the provision of day care is concerned. That is why it is of the utmost importance that these schools should indeed be allowed to reopen,” they added.
They further argued that the same preventative measures and “responsible phasing in of the children” applied to other grades should also apply to private nursery schools.
Solidarity’s statement did not specify whether or not the Guild and SSC had issued a deadline by when Dlamini-Zuma and Zulu should respond to their demands.