SADTU North West Media Statement on the Reopening of Schools

16 May 2020

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) in the North West province has noted, with serious concern, the manner in which the Department of Education in the province is dealing with the issue of Covid -19 and preparations towards the reopening of schools. Our concern is amongst others informed by the circulation of the two Circulars i.e. Circular 21/2020 and the one entitled "Cleaning Campaign: Re-opening of Schools" which were released without even consulting with the union.

As the union we are highly disturbed, disappointed, dissatisfied and annoyed by the behaviour of the Department as these Circulars clearly show that the Department does not care about the wellbeing and the lives of its employees in the North West.

It is more disturbing that the Department expects School Management Team's (SMT's) and School Governing Bodies (SGB's)  to report to schools being aware that they have not complied with the prescripts of Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act no 85 of 1993), which states that "No worker should enter the workplace before the workplace is thoroughly cleaned".

The Departmental Circular 15/2020, amongst others, states that 2.5 "clean surfaces and shared equipment on regular basis and 2.11: Disinfect all offices and schools before employees resume duty". We are now surprised why the department  has opted to disregard their own directives and those issued by the Department of Employment and Labour.

It is our firm belief that the Department's call for the School Management Team's (SMT's) to report for work on Monday is premature and risky. The Department has not taken into account all the safety precautions in compliance with the OHS Act and the Covid -19 regulations.  We call on the department to respond to the following questions:-

  • Are all the schools cleaned and disinfected?
  • Who is supposed to clean the schools and offices and who is going to pay for the service provided?
  • Who is going to test all the employees who will be entering the schools and offices when employees return to work?
  • Were all schools which were vandalized repaired?
  • Do all schools and offices have running water and safe toilets?
  • Are the permits issued for SMT members outside the province and other officials

We have also noted the fact that our members, who are office based employees are expected to act as health professionals. Some Districts in our province have released Circulars on the training of "all employees" for screening.  The question is are the conditions of service of our members changed? Are they now health professionals?

These are some of the questions that need to be answered before our members go back to schools.
It is therefore on that basis that as the union we reject the two Circulars and their contents and strongly advise our members not to report to schools on Monday the 18th May 2020 until the union has evidence on the readiness of the Department.

What surprises further is that the department on the 9th May 2020 issued a circular 16/2020 to all stakeholders indicating that "A preliminary review of the state of readiness for school reopening and the related risk assessment show that as a Department we have not yet met the set precondition to contain the transmission of COVID-19 in schools due to circumstances beyond control". It further said, " In view of the above , we wish to advise that SMT's should not report for duty on 11th  May 2020 until further notice."

Since the last date of the circular, we are not convinced that the department has lived up to their promises because they have opted not to take key stakeholders into confidence about their level of readiness.

Lastly, we have noted with disappointment that there are officials and some school principals who are summoning workers to condemn the behaviour of some of our members who maintain that offices and schools are not yet safe. This is rather inhumane and insensitive as all of us have to be cautious and act according to the law.

Be safe and stay home. Wash hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.  Wear a mask when in public spaces and maintain social distance.

Education Workers Unite! Stand for your rights and protect your health.

ISSUED BY:  SADTU NW Secretariat

CONTACT:

Provincial Secretary, George Els Themba: 071 385 4659