NATIONAL NEWS - The Professional Educators Union (PEU) – along with other teacher unions – says it has come to an agreement with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to postpone the reopening of schools by two weeks.
This is after PEU met with the Department of Education (DBE) on Wednesday evening, in which director-general Mathanzima Mweli revealed that the NCCC proposed that the opening of schools be put off until 15 February.
According PEU general-secretary Ben Machipi, the postponement of reopening schools was agreed upon due to the wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Machipi said that the union raised concern over many teachers who succumbed to the virus while many were too ill, resulting in severe shortage of teachers.
“The current state of affairs in terms of Covid-19 infection rates and high numbers of admissions in both public and private hospitals have been overstretched.
“So we therefore call upon provincial education departments (PEDs) to expedite the filling of vacancies so created and to temporarily replace educators who are not well, to guarantee that there is a teacher in the classroom,” Machipi told The Citizen on Thursday.
“As might be aware, when the country moved to level one, the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) collective agreement on concessions for teachers with comorbidities became obsolete and the affected educators returned to work.
“The current state of affairs in terms of the second wave critically demand that such a collective agreement is much needed than before, to safe the lives of so many educators with underlying conditions and will push to expedite that agreement,” he added.
Machipi further urged the DBE to avoid the risk of plunging the country into a crisis mode by following medical advice from NCCC.
“PEU is further alive to the fact that no one can say with absolute certainty as what will happen after the postponement of reopening of schools by two weeks and we are readily available to walk this tough journey with all stakeholders in education, to ensure that schools become havens for learning at all times,” he concluded.