GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Two of the biggest teachers' unions, the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), say they were not consulted on the call for school management teams (SMTs) and teachers to go back to school from 25 January.
Naptosa's executive director, Basil Manuel, called it confusing and nonsensical in a press release on 15 January.
"What for? What must a SMT now do at school for 21 days prior to the re-opening of schools when this was not required for the envisaged re-opening on 27 January 2021. And teachers, to return 14 days in advance of the re-opening of schools."
'Decisions based on politics'
In a press release on 14 January the general secretary of Sadtu, Mugwena Maluleke, said they wonder what informed this decision of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), because teachers are as vulnerable to the pandemic as the learners.
"This shows the department has no regard for the lives of the workers who are the ones who are infected and overwhelming the hospitals... The DBE thinks learners are taught by robots and this obsession that educators are hired to work and they should therefore go to work when the officials have been working from home for the whole of last year is unacceptable."
Maluleke said the numbers must be declining for 14 consecutive days to reopen schools safely. "Allowing educators to report for duty a week before learners report to schools would be a justifiable option because we shall have observed for 14 consecutive days, the decline in numbers."
Maluleke suggested that Sadtu's request that teachers only return a week before learners is reasonable.
"The education sector which brings more than 13 million learners and more than 400 thousand educators and workers, can make a huge difference in easing the pressure from the health system if the mobility is reduced during this second wave, but the DBE lacks foresight because it takes decisions based on politics and wishful thinking rather than on science and numbers that are not declining as required by the WHO," he said.
'No sound reason'
Naptosa said it is not advancing an argument for an extended holiday for teachers, but is calling for logic to prevail in order to protect the health and safety of its members. "Or are the lives of teachers less important than forcing them to gather at schools for no sound reason?"
Manuel said they want the department to realise that the pandemic does not distinguish between private and public school teachers and learners - they are equally vulnerable.
Early childhood development (ECD) centres were not mentioned by the Deputy Minister during the press conference last week Wednesday, leaving those involved in these institutions in the dark.
"What we need is firm leadership to take decisions that will have universal application," said Naptosa.
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