The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) has insisted that no schools should open during level four of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown.

The union’s remarks followed department of basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli telling a joint meeting of parliamentary committees on Wednesday that if things went according to his department’s wishes, schools would reopen next week, with teachers returning on May 4 and pupils on May 6. 

“If level four [lockdown] regulations are to be adhered to, there should be no re-opening of schools under level 4. The minister (Angie Motshekga) should meet with stakeholders before any announcement is made and after making sure that the department of health has expertly assessed the risks,” said SADTU. 

The Department of Basic Education has proposed that schools should reopen next week with teachers returning on May 4 and pupils two days later. File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

“We reject importing the Taiwan, China, Denmark and Singapore misrepresentation by the director general (Mweli). The context and culture are not the same. We must use our context, culture and data to inform our actions.” 

The union said it had become apparent that the department of basic education was negotiating in bad faith. 

“We have called upon everyone to contribute towards the solution, but it is now clear that the department of basic education is engaging in bad faith and this is undesirable when we are faced with a virulent and contagious pandemic.”

“We can’t allow them to liquidate our workers and students. We stand firm that no schools shall open until our concerns are met.”

RETURN: Various measures will set in place for teachers, pupils

Schools across South Africa have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The department was supposed to host a media briefing on Monday, but that was delayed, with plans to update the public on Thursday.

SADTU further said it had urged the department to “comply” with minimum requirements it had set before schools were reopened. These included:

  • fumigation and disinfection of schools,
  • proper school infrastructure in the form of proper toilet facilities,
  • observance of social distancing inside classrooms and on court yards,
  • reduction of class sizes,
  • provision of soap, sanitisers and masks,
  • screening of learners, teachers and support personnel,
  • social distancing in the transportation of learners to and from schools,
  • provision of psycho-social services to assist learners as well as teachers to build resilience and calm fears.

Mweli said the plan was that grades would be phased in, starting with grades 7 and 12 returning to school next Wednesday. The other grades would start classes in staggered phases between May and July.