Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says she will consult “all stakeholders in the basic education sector” following growing calls to close schools until the COVID-19 peak is over.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department said the consultations will be concluded on Friday before a scheduled Cabinet meeting.
“The engagements will inform the Minister’s proposals to the Cabinet at the weekend. Once all the engagements have been concluded, an announcement will be made,” the Department added.
SADTU leads calls
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) has led calls for schools to be closed because of rising COVID-19 infections across the country. In a statement on Tuesday, it said seven learners had lost their lives to the virus so far.
It also cited the flu season, different applications and interpretations of the standard operating procedures for schools reopening, and an overburdened healthcare system.
SADTU added, “The suspension of classes during this peak would afford the platforms entrusted with regulations and protocols to amend and train the users. The situation is dire and impacts on everyone in the community and not only schools because schools are the microcosm of the society.”
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (NAPTOSA) and Educators Union of SA (EUS) have also made similar calls. NAPTOSA said the closure should be accompanied by a plan “to take the school year to a close.”
“Will the re-closure of schools be disruptive? Yes, but NAPTOSA is not prepared to compromise the physical and mental health of our members, in particular, and whole communities, in general, under the current circumstances,” it said.
Others organisations calling for schools closing include the ANC Women’s League, Young Communist League, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and One SA Movement.
Schools to remain open
The Department denied reports that Motshekga had arranged a meeting specifically with SADTU for Wednesday morning, insisting that her meetings will be with be with all stakeholders including school governing body associations and civil society organisations.
It added, “We wish to restate that the decision to reopen schools was taken by Cabinet after extensive consultation which culminated in the phased approach to the resumption of duty in the sector. Schools remain open until further notice.”
Under the phased approach to schools reopening, Grades 7 and 12, as well as Year 4 of Schools of Skills, returned on 1 June, while Grades R, 6 and 11 resumed on 6 July. Other grades were scheduled to reopen as from 20 July, with 31 August being the last date.