The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] supports its sister union and reliable ally in the terrain of struggle, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union [SADTU], in calling for schools to close until the COVID-19 peak passes.
The national union holds a strong view that schools should reopen in September because temperatures would have risen by that time of the year and infections would decrease as the virus is said to be less of a threat in warm conditions. The increasing number of leaners and teachers who are getting infected with the virus is a serious cause for concern and the start of the winter season including the recent spike in transmissions in the country necessitates that stringent measures are put in place to protect lives. Even before the peak, the Department of Basic Education [DBE] was failing to put measures in place to protect learners and teachers. For example, twenty three days after schools were reopened more than 180 pupils at the Makaula Senior Secondary School in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape tested positive for Covid-19.
Many schools have been complaining about late delivery of Personal Protective Equipment [PPE], poor quality of PPEs in most schools, no PPEs for non-teaching staff, dilapidated classrooms while some rural schools still have no proper toilets and scarce water supplies for washing of hands. The peak of the virus is only going to exacerbate these problems which will lead to loss of innocent lives. The World Health Organisation [WHO] has also warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the coronavirus are on the rise.
While schools are closed the department will have ample time to get its house in order. We support the call by our sister union for the department to look at other avenues including interactive radio lessons, educational television programmes, provision of infrastructure and gadgets for online learning. Parents have a role to play too as they still have to assist learners with their schools work and ensure that their children don’t have a lull in terms of learning.
NEHAWU calls on the department to listen to reason as the continuation of schooling will only result in calamity. Our healthcare system is already overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases and in order to unburden it we need to stop transmissions by any means necessary.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org