24 April 2020
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) is looking forward to the addresses to the nation by the Ministers of Education about the reopening of schools as mentioned President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation.
We wish to raise the following with both basic and higher education ministers as they will be addressing the nation. The first priority is the safety of all our learning institutions because we cannot afford to lose lives. Corpses can neither be taught nor teach.
SADTU is concerned about the safety of teachers, lecturers, education support personnel and learners and students. Above all, we are concerned about the readiness of the provincial departments with regard to the availability of health and safety essentials that have to be put in place in the learning institutions at least two weeks before any activity can take place.
We have the right to be concerned because Alert 4 Level requires honesty, transparency and accuracy regarding readiness with precautionary measures. We are raising these things because our sister Union, DENOSA has raised these matters and provinces concealed the facts about their readiness until the Minister of Health was shocked when he visited one of the hospitals in the Eastern Cape. We believe education is an enabler. However, it can only be effective in a conducive and safe environment.
We urge these Departments to comply with the following minimum requirements for any phasing in or staggered approach to the reopening of our learning institutions two weeks before any learning activity can take place:-
There can be no hand hygiene without continuous water supply. Pit latrines are by design a health hazard and we are informed that this virus is more vicious to those who have these types of pre-existing conditions. The apartheid racism has structured the lives of the poor majority to be the candidates to any pandemic and this virus has exposed these pre-existing conditions. We call on the Department of Public Works to collaborate with education to ensure that these facilities are safe and promote the dignity of all in these learning institutions and offices.
That pre-existing health conditions of students and workers be taken into account. That the education calendar be reviewed and this includes the scheme of work to focus on the essentials skills, knowledge and attitudes.
That safety must be a priority and continuous hygiene training takes place to become a school culture. In short, we are saying that all the necessary health precautions be taken seriously to avoid schools and colleges being new epicentres of the virus.
The screening of everyone in the school is a non-negotiable and psychosocial services are mandatory in order to support and help all of us to build resilience.
As we anticipate the address by the ministers, these are the conditions that must be complied with and they are exactly what the President mentioned for any COVID19 exit strategy.
SADTU has the right to be concerned about the safety of members and communities does not feel ashamed to have these concerns. We must express them openly so that together we can contain the spread of the virus. We believe that this is the time to unite as the nation and defeat the virus.
It’s time we confront the inequalities in our institutions. There are students who were learning during lockdown because they had data to connect, they had gadgets and to them online was beneficial. To the majority of students, such important platforms such as distance learning, eLearning and online was impossible. We must then accept that the virus didn’t cause these inequalities but it exposed them. They should then be attended to as a matter of urgency. We need to do our best to avoid widening any existing learning gaps during the remote learning period.
We need to consider advises from experts when it comes to how best we can deal with special schools and combined schools because their situation is unique. We must work together to encourage academically at-risk students – such as those with learning disorders, or executive function disorders such as ADHD – to start attending targeted in-class learning. This could allow for some bridging instruction so that these students can make a strong start when the rest of their year group returns to in-class instruction.
Let us work together as a nation and support our President as he navigates this difficult and unprecedented terrain.
We want to conclude by stating that all students and workers must stay alive. Let’s practice social distancing, wash our hands with soap, sanitize all the time. Our team made submissions to the Department and we were disciplined not to distribute documents which were not finalized by the ministers.
We hope the ministers will have a moment to read our statement and consider all the minimum requirements we are putting on the table. We must not make a mistake because this virus is brutal and we should not undermine its viciousness and brutality. Only if we unite and stop competing, can we defeat this virus.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat
General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi