Government to meet amid growing calls to close schools in South Africa

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga says that she will engage in ‘broad consultations’ with all stakeholders in the basic education sector amid growing calls to close the country’s schools again.

The purpose of these meetings will be to obtain input on the issues regarding the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country as it relates to schools, the minister said in a statement on Wednesday (15 July).

These sectors consultations are expected to be concluded by Friday.

“The engagements will inform the minister’s proposals to the cabinet at the weekend. Once all the engagements have been concluded, an announcement will be made to create certainty for the sector,” Motshekga said.

“We wish to restate that the decision  to reopen schools was taken by the cabinet after extensive consultation which culminated in the phased approach to the resumption of duty in the sector. Schools remain open until further notice.”

Motshekga’s statement comes after the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the largest education union in the country, resolved that schools should close amid a peak in Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

The union said that schools should only be allowed to reopen once the country has passed this peak, with the group also citing concerns with the airborne nature of the virus, adding that it is not possible to open windows in classrooms during winter.

“Upon receiving all provincial reports about the dire state of the system on the ground thus took the decision to call on the DBE to suspend all schooling activities with immediate effect until the peak of the pandemic has rescinded,” it said.

The Public Servants Association (PSA), a trade union which represents thousands of educators and administrative staff, has also said that the country’s schools should be closed after a surge in the coronavirus infection rate.

Should schools remain open and all grades return, some 18 million learners will move around daily to attend school. This will result in more parents and other family members being exposed to the virus, the union said.

“With more grades returning to the schooling system and the current infection rate increasing steeply, more educators and supports staff will run the risk of being infected.

“There is no rationale for limiting the number of people who attend church services and funerals, but schools with more than 1,000 learners will be open. Many schools now have deceased educators and learners who are traumatised.”


Read: New data shows weekly deaths in South Africa during coronavirus lockdown

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Government to meet amid growing calls to close schools in South Africa