Confusion as schools reopen in the province

A pupil being screened before entering a classroom in Bonteheuwel.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s last-minute stalling of the plan to reopen schools caused confusion and was unfair to pupils, said Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus McKenzie.

Earlier this month, the minister said schools would reopen from Monday June 1, with Grade 7 and matrics in the first wave. But the plan saw push-back from teachers’ unions.

Then on Sunday, Ms Motshekga postponed a briefing on school readiness and the department issued a statement saying it wanted to delay the reopening by a week.

On Monday Ms Motshekga told a media briefing schools would now reopen on Monday June 8.

However, Western Cape Education Department MEC Debbie Schafer said schools could no longer be left to “hover in a state of uncertainty” and would reopen in the province on June 1 as originally announced by the minister.

She said the province had “pulled out all the stops” to get schools ready for the June 1 deadline.

”Principals and staff have worked tirelessly to get all the health and safety requirements in place,” she said, adding that R280 million had been spent on protective gear and cleaning materials for schools, including
2.4 million masks (two for each pupil and staff member) and 7000 non-contact digital thermometers and millions of litres of hand sanitiser, liquid soap, disinfectant and bleach.

The last-minute turn-around by the minister left parents confused and angry, and on Monday only about half of Bonteheuwel’s Grade 7s and matrics attended school, according to Mr McKenzie

Those who made it were screened and had their temperatures checked. Both pupils and staff wore masks and floors were marked with tape and classroom desks were spaced out to enforce physical distancing.

“I am extremely impressed and hugely thankful for the effort put in place by schools and educators to, one, keep our children safe and, two, make sure that no child is left behind. Bonteheuwel school’s have gone over and above what is expected of them, thank you.

“The national Minister of Education has done children a huge injustice today in Bonteheuwel by confusing our learners with her late night madness and should be ashamed of herself. Bonteheuwel schools are ready, safe and able to give your child the best.”

At the Monday press conference, Ms Motshekga apologised to the nation about the confusion and said that she had been in late consultation with ministers, teachers unions and school governing bodies about the opening of schools the next day.

Some schools had still not received their personal protective equipment (PPE), water supply, and sanitisers as well as masks, she said. Some had also not prepared for support staff and therefore could not open.

Schools were to use this week to prepare for the reopening on Monday June 8.

“We communicated, unfortunately, quite late that parents should not bring Grade 7s and 12s to schools, but teachers who have received PPEs must return to work. Schools which did not receive PPEs and are not ready cannot open. We will meet again Thursday to discuss further,” she said.