SADTU Statement on the beginning of the 2022 Academic Year

11 January 2022

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) welcomes the beginning of the 2022 academic year. Learners in inland schools are due to back on Wednesday, 12 January while coastal areas are expected to open their doors to learners on Monday, 17 January 2022.

The year begins with the COVID-19 pandemic still prevalent in our midst. For the past two years, learners have lost considerable learning time due to lockdowns and rotational schooling put in place to ensure social distancing in order to keep the pandemic at bay.

As schools open, we would like to see learners returning to classes all at once. However, we cannot allow them to put their lives at risk as we are fully aware of the fact that we are still on Alert Level 1 which requires that we observe, among others, one metre social distancing. It is sad to note that fewer classrooms have been built to ensure that there is adequate space for learners to learn under safe conditions.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) acknowledges that there are still significant challenges in terms of the delivery of education infrastructure in response to the current circumstances. This is related directly to the limited funding made by the government for this critical purpose. It remains our firm view that education is an apex priority for the country and should be treated as such in theory and in practice.

The Treasury should therefore provide a stimulus package for education to deal with backlogs that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. It is common cause that the economy experienced a sharp down turn that saw even parents lose their ability to supplement their respective school budgets through school fees in the fee-paying public and private schools. In other instances, schools diverted their norms and standards budgets towards COVID compliance materials. It is our strong view that this will have immediate adverse results.  

As 2021 drew to a close, we noted an increasing number of children infected with COVID-19 as compared to 2020. We commend the fact that children from the ages of 12 upwards are now eligible for vaccination. We urge them to take the opportunity and get themselves vaccinated. The vaccines are not a cure but have had a positive impact as we saw a reduction in the number of educators who have died due to COVID 19 after many were vaccinated in June last year.

Moreover, we would like to see the Department of Health being more pro-active and roll-out a vaccination strategy to children from the ages of 5 to 11 to increase their safety in schools and mitigate against the spread of the pandemic.

We are concerned with reports that over 500 000 learners could have been lost from the system due to COVID-19 informed circumstance; we are calling for a greater investment on a digital strategy so that interventions such as blended learning can be possible and so that the inequality gap can be significantly reduced. We insist as a union that we should not as a country go back to the education crisis before the COVID crisis.

It is a gross anomaly that on the first day of schooling there are learners who will be sitting at home because they have not found placement or their schools were damaged by weather conditions or vandalised. Some are yet to receive the learning and teaching support materials (LTSM).

With schools having lost a lot of teaching time in the past two years, we would like to see the Department of Basic Education doing its best to ensure administration issues are dealt with speedily so that teaching and learning can take place.

We urge schools, learners and education personnel to ensure they adhere strictly to the safety protocols. Although the Omicron variant is said to be mild, it is deadly as people continue to die.

Lastly, we welcome the announcement by the DBE that the National Senior Certificate (Matric) results will not be publicised in the media. This is a welcome relief which our ally, the South African Students Congress (COSAS) has long been calling for. We believe this will lessen the stress suffered by matriculants as some end up committing suicide due to embarrassment caused when their names do not appear in the media thus announcing to the whole world that they have failed. It is also our view that publicising the results was an unnecessary invasion of privacy of many learners.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat

CONTACT:

General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968

Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana  Dolopi: 082 709 5651

Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157