Congress of South African Students (Cosas) acting provincial secretary Mphumzi Giwu said: “We are telling the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) that scholars won’t be used as guinea pigs to see if the virus really kills or not.”
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said there were a number of false claims made by Cosas, including that “we have delivered fake sanitisers – which was completely outrageous and untrue”.
Hammond said schooling must continue, especially for those who were in Grade 12. “The WCED operates under the broad umbrella of the Basic Education sector of South Africa.”
Giwu disputed allegations by the department, and said “we only said that the department does not give its staff enough personal protective equipment.”
Hammond said the department had provided each school with the necessary safety and cleaning materials to ensure a safe work environment for teachers and learners.
“The masks, sanitisers, thermometers and cleaning products are no different to those delivered elsewhere. Schools have the necessary information in order to ensure that the necessary safety protocols are in place, as we have seen at other schools across the province.”
Hammond said that at the Nelson Mandela High School, the school governing body decided to purchase specialised equipment for decontamination, using their own money.
“The general workers were trained by the service providers on how to use the equipment. Regardless, the processes explained above in terms of the number of days when educators were last at school were allegedly followed.”
She said the district would engage with the school to determine their concerns and their safety protocols.Education MEC Debbie Schäfer condemned the Cosas action.
“First, they have no mandate or authority to close a school.”
“Second, there is enough anxiety at the moment without this irresponsible and immature action. We are just getting schools back, after a two-month break, and this action serves only to try and cause chaos and disruption, which will affect the poorest learners the most.”
ANC deputy chief whip in the provincial legislature and education spokesperson Khalid Sayed said they were deeply concerned with the rise in Covid-19 infections among teachers and pupils, especially “at our schools in poor areas”.
“We have long warned against the premature reopening of schools in the province, which is the epicentre of the virus without all safety protocols and capacity in place to deal with infections at schools,” Sayed said.
This as the teachers mourned one of their own.
The Western Cape Teacher’s Forum conveyed its condolences in a Facebook post on Monday: “It is with heavy hearts that we relay our sincerest and deepest condolences to the Harvester Primary School community in Mitchells Plain, as they mourn the passing of Mrs G Karan due to Covid-19 complications. Our hearts and prayers accompany you during this very, very difficult time.”
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