Schools must be closed immediately, including matric classes, and only reopen at the end of next month once Covid-19 infections have peaked, say SA’s five teacher unions the Sunday Times reported.
A resolution by the unions to this effect was included in a document basic education minister Angie Motshekga took to yesterday’s meeting with the education MECs of the nine provinces.
The unions told Sunday Times, matrics should return on August 17 and that “different modes (of teaching) to assist them while they are at home” should be prioritised. Other grades should return at the end of August, subject to a review based on the development of the virus.
The unions’ call has reignited confusion among parents across the country as they wait for a decision by the government on whether or not their children will return to school.
There have already been two eleventh- hour about-turns by the department. On the eve of a scheduled return to school of grades 7 and 12 pupils on June 1, the department announced these two grades would resume classes only on June 8. Further confusion arose days before five new grades were due to resume on July 6, when the department announced that only grades R, 6 and 11 would be returning.
Grades 3 and 10 are due to return tomorrow, but KwaZulu-Natal schools were told on Friday not to phase in any new grades until they are given the green light by the provincial education department.
An alliance of private schools and the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), representing mostly former Model C schools, wants pupils to stay in class. Their stance has been supported by the South African Human Rights Commission and the Anglican church.
But the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), the voice of more than 9,000 governing bodies of no-fee schools, said all grades except grades 7 and 12 should be cancelled.
In its submission to Motshekga, the unions said that the department should provide teachers with “the necessary tools to work from home and prepare work for the reopening of schools and return of learners”.
Other resolutions by the unions include:
Meanwhile, a study by professor Martin Gustafsson from Stellenbosch University and Carol Nuga Deliwe from basic education has found that without catch-up lessons, the skills of those completing matric “would be lower than in the no-pandemic scenario up to 2031”.
Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz said: “There may be tens of thousands of teachers who want the schools closed but there are millions of parents who want to send their children back.”