Sadtu still adamant Eastern Cape schools must close

The union met with the superintendent-general of the education department, Temba Kojana, on Tuesday night to urge the department to review its decision to reopen schools.
The union met with the superintendent-general of the education department, Temba Kojana, on Tuesday night to urge the department to review its decision to reopen schools.
Image: paylessimages / 123RF Stock Photo

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) is standing firm on its call to have all Eastern Cape schools closed as a result of growing Covid-19 infections.

The union met with the superintendent-general of the education department, Temba Kojana, on Tuesday night to urge the department to review its decision to reopen schools.

Sadtu provincial secretary Chris Mdingi said the union would not “sit back and watch matters spiral out of control”.

DispatchLIVE spoke to Mdingi before he met with Kojana. The meeting took place after the  DispatchLIVE's print deadline.

“We will not mince our words. Our call still stands. Eastern Cape schools must be closed because a majority of them are not equipped to deal with the coronavirus effectively,” said Mdingi.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa and basic education minister Angie Motshekga didn't force schools to open in the province. The circumstances that face our lower quintile schools are frustrating and dehumanising.”

The union released a statement this week detailing these “perpetual challenges”.

The statement said only 65% of schools serving Grade 7 pupils in the province had reopened. Some were without adequate ablution facilities and there had been late delivery personal protective equipment (PPE). 

“We are mindful that we have to strike a balance but these are unprecedented times which means drastic measures need to be taken,” Mdingi said.

“Our intention in the meeting with the SG is not to change anything in that statement. Sadtu in the Eastern Cape calls upon the education authorities in the province to respond to their conscience and do what is in the best interest of humanity,” Mdingi said.

A statement from Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane’s office on Monday said 196 schools had closed across the province due to Covid-19 infections.

Forty of these schools reopened again after decontamination and 132 will reopen after three days of screening and decontamination is done, he said.

Mdingi said these numbers were unsurprising but they could be even higher if schools had closed without it being recorded. 

“There are schools which are threatening pupils not to speak out about their dire situations to maintain a certain image of the school.

“That must come to an end. Gone are the days where learners suffer in silence.”

Mdingi said the province’s generational battle with pit toilets was further amplified by the pandemic.

“I’m currently interacting with a report from Chris Hani west, which includes Komani and surrounding areas, which tells the story of a learner who was relieving themself when the structure around the pit toilet blew away. “That is incredibly dehumanising.”

Calls for schools to close are growing around the country.

Western Cape teachers from Steenberg High,  Floreat Primary, Athlone High and Heathfield High have written an open letter to government imploring it to reverse the decision to reopen schools.

“We opine, with great conviction, that the decision to reopen primary and high schools on the 1st June was the wrong one. We contend that the timing is bad as wintry weather brings with it seasonal illness such as influenza.

“The coronavirus thrives under cold conditions and will also augment and exacerbate the onset of the flu and tuberculosis. At the time of writing this letter, incidents of teachers and children suffering and dying due to Covid-19 are rising,” the teachers said.


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