The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] supports its sister union and reliable allies in the terrain of struggle the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union [SADTU], Congress of South African Students [COSAS] and other trade unions in rejecting the decision by the Department of Basic Education [DBE] to reopen schools on the 1st June 2020.
As NEHAWU, we hold a strong view that schools are not ready to reopen and to resume normal operations. We firmly believe that the health and safety of our members, workers and learners in basic education is sacrosanct and that the department has an obligation to provide a safe learning and teaching environment. On the 19th May 2020, the department assured the nation that preconditions for the reopening of schools will be met with an emphasis of a conducive environment for teaching and learning whilst safeguarding the lives of workers and learners. However, as things stand, we are not convinced that the department has fulfilled even the basic minimum requirements for the reopening of schools.
We have noted with concern reports from our members that not all schools are ready and for our members who are none-teaching staff, the department has not fully complied with the DPSA circular which directed that as part of the Risk Adjusted Strategy the department must ensure that the following happens:
· Appointment of risk compliance officers in all departments and in this case the districts
· Deep cleansing, fumigation and sanitisation of infrastructure and facilities.
· Procurement of Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs] and hygiene packs.
· Establishing screening and testing facilities at workplaces.
· Formal Communication of return to work to all government employees
· Provision of water and sanitation
The department cannot with confidence assure the nation that they have adhered to the regulations as set out and met the minimum requirements for the reopening of schools when across the country there are schools without any PPEs, water and sanitation, screening and testing facilities, and decontamination has not taken place in order to resume schooling.
NEHAWU as a health and education union cannot afford to jeopardise the lives of workers and learners due to the dismal failure by the department to ensure that it meets the requirements to reopen schools. We have noted the rapid upsurge of coronavirus cases in the past few weeks and this requires that we become more cautious.
We will not stand idle while the department risks the lives of workers and learners especially those that are vulnerable to the disease, including elderly workers and learners with co-morbidities. We therefore call on the department to reconsider its decision to reopen schools on the 1st June 2020 until there is conducive environment for learning and teaching whilst ensuring the health and safety of learners and workers. Schools can only reopen once the following demands have been met by the department:
· Disinfection of schools
· Social distancing in class rooms
· Reductions of class sizes
· Screening of learners and teachers
· Delivery of personal protective equipment which includes masks, gloves and sanitisers.
We support the call made by our reliable allies SADTU and COSAS for workers and learners not to return to school until the department has made the necessary provisions that ensures the health and safety is placed at the centre of reopening schools. In this regard, we call on all our members, workers and learners not to return to schools on the 1st June 2020 as announced by the department. Workers and learners can only return after all the requirements have been met and their safety has been guaranteed by the department.
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: email@example.com