South Africa should delay reopening of schools: Human Rights Commission

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has written to minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga recommending that she reconsider the return of students to schools from 1 June.

The SAHRC said it has performed independent monitoring of schools for readiness in all nine provinces and has held consultations with various stakeholders, including teachers’ unions and school governing bodies.

The Commission said it supports the opening of schools as soon as possible in order to give effect to the rights of learners to education. However, it said that this should be done in tandem with reasonable and adequate measures and efforts to safeguard the right to health of learners and educators.

“It is thus important that necessary minimum conditions that need to be met for the re-opening of schools, such as access to adequate clean water and sanitation, social distancing, the availability of personal protective equipment, training and the general sanitisation of schools, are met,” it said.

“Feedback from our provincial offices is that many schools have not achieved the required readiness to receive learners.”

The SAHRC said that most observations from its provincial offices highlight the shortage or inadequacy of water and sanitation as well as personal protective equipment.

In addition to its own independent monitoring of schools, the Commission has had consultations with stakeholders specifically, teachers’ unions and school governing bodies, it said.

“The various teachers’ unions have urged us that the conditions necessary for the proposed opening of schools for grade 7 and 12 learners, announced by yourselves, have not yet been met.

“They said that they based this conclusion upon their own observations on the ground. The schools governing bodies informed the Commission this afternoon that, as of today, (28 May 2020) about 3,500 schools still have no adequate water.”

“All these reports give the Commission concerns whether, and considering that only three days remain before the date of opening as well as the amount of work that appears still remaining to be done, the schools will be ready to receive learners with the expected levels of safety by 01 June 2020.”

The commission said it has therefore communicated its concerns by letter to the Minister and recommended that she reconsiders the date for reopening the schools.

Read: South Africa’s level 3 lockdown – what you need to know, including the times you can buy alcohol

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South Africa should delay reopening of schools: Human Rights Commission