The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) is calling on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to close all schools with immediate effect ahead of the country’s Covid-19 peak.
It is after a special executive committee meeting held on Tuesday when SADTU secretary-general Mugwena Maluleke said, “The NEC, upon receiving all provincial reports about the dire state of the system on the ground, took the decision to call on the DBE to suspend all schooling activities with immediate effect until the peak of the pandemic rescinds,”
SADTU said it’s also calling for the Grade 12 calendar, in particular, to be aligned with that of the Department of Higher Education, which agreed last week that the 2020 academic year would only be finished in the “early part of 2021”.
SADTU’s exco meeting was held after concerns from its members about the rising Covid-19 infections at schools around the country.
Maluleke said the rising coronavirus community transmissions were hindering schooling and the union had come to a conclusion that schools should be closed until after the COVID peak. He said schools were also heavily affected by high absenteeism and substitute teachers for older teachers who have underlying conditions was proving a problem for the departments.
“All evidence on the ground is that there is no effective teaching and learning that is taking place under the current conditions. The pandemic has led to pandemonium in the education sector and this can be linked to the lacklustre leadership that we have been experiencing from the DBE at various levels,” said Maluleke.
The union also said they had previously agreed for schools to reopen after studies were found showing that children didn’t infect one another and that there were little to no fatalities amongst children.
However, the union now says the local situation was at odds with the research as seven school children had already died allegedly due to the coronavirus.
“The other development that compelled the leadership to request a meeting with the minister was the airborne nature of the virus. This required the response in how to deal with the classroom situation,” said Maluleke
“It required new ways of treating the closed environment and ventilation issues. Can we open the windows in the middle of a freezing winter day? The peak and the influenza period offered an opportunity to get the scientists to work on the response whilst the learners were at home,” he said.
SADTU recommends radio lessons and the use of technology such as WhatsApp and virtual classrooms for the duration of the proposed closed period.