The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) notes and welcomes the Department of Basic Education’s decision to delay the opening of schools from the 27th of January and allow the learners on the 15th of February depending on the virus’ behavior during the two-week delay. However, the SADTU does not agree with the call for educators and SMTs to report for duty from the 25th of January. The unions were not consulted. We wonder what informed this decision because teachers are as vulnerable to the pandemic as the learners. This shows the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has no regards for the lives of the workers who are the ones who are infected and overwhelming the hospitals. The National Coronavirus Command Council’s decision was aimed at helping the health system to cope with the crisis our country is facing.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is spitting on this well intended goal to save lives because it is obsessed with mechanical management rather that look at science and evidence that hospitals are not able to admit patients and anyone above 58 years is at risk of not receiving oxygen or ventilator because doctors are forced to ration these life-saving equipments.
The DBE thinks the learners are taught by robots and this obsession that educators are hired to work and they should therefore go to work when the officials have been working from home for the whole of last year is unacceptable.
The decision to delay the opening of schools is based on the advice of scientists and the World Health Organization (WHO) that it would be better to delay the reopening of schools as the increase of the pandemic is at the stage is unprecedented. The numbers must be declining for 14 consecutive days to reopen schools safely. Allowing educators to report for duty a week before learners report to schools would be a justifiable option because we shall have observed for 14 consecutive days, the decline in numbers.
This matter raised in the meeting held with the DBE and will be part of the agenda for the next meeting the unions will have with the Department of Basic Education.
During the festive season we have seen so many educators and their families lose their lives more than during the school or college active season. This demonstrated the importance of protocols and compliance in our schools and colleges.
As we observe the delay in the opening of schools, SADTU is making a passionate plea to everyone to do their all in order to cut the chain of the virus. We call on everybody to treat level 1 as if it’s level 5 and change their behaviours to eradicate the virus.
We call on the Department of Basic Education to show leadership regarding the independent schools that have opened and close them down. The Department cannot afford to “persuade” these schools to close but should lay down the law. All schools operate in the same environment that is experiencing the unprecedented spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, therefore, the decision to delay the opening of schools should apply to every school – whether public or not. Allowing these schools to open further perpetuates the gap that exists between the public and independent schools.
The education sector which brings more than 13 million learners and more than 400 thousands educators and educators workers, can make a huge difference is easing the pressure from the health system if the mobility is reduced during this second wave but the DBE lacks foresight because it takes decisions based on politics and wishful thinking rather than on science and numbers that are not declining as required by the WHO.
What is the purpose of consultation when decisions are taken before consultation? To tick the box? The President must crack the whip on the DBE leadership because its decisions are going to reverse his good work in flattening the curve. The DBE is very spiteful and will have to be made to be accountable and respect the law that compels the minister to consult both CEM and Trade Unions. The DBE chooses to consult the CEM and take decisions and then come to labour and brief them against the law. Educators have never refused to go to work and are always going an extra mile in doing their work. Educators are in the frontline and this department is destroying their morale.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke
Deputy General Secretary. Nkosana Dolopi
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi; 082 719 5157Secretariat Officer, Xolani Fakude; 071 355 1566