Eastern Cape schools which do not meet the department of education’s standard for water and sanitation will not reopen on Monday.
This includes schools that have not received personal protective equipment (PPE) ahead of grade 7 and 12 pupils returning to school.
Speaking on Friday at a media briefing about how ready provincial schools were to reopen, education MEC Fundile Gade said non-complying schools would open “on Wednesday or Thursday” next week.
“Where there are schools that do not meet our standards for learners to return — these will be deemed level five schools and their children taken to other neighbouring schools,” Gade said.
He was speaking against a backdrop of widespread anxiety over the reopening of schools countrywide, with five teacher unions and three school governing body associations on Friday calling on basic education minister Angie Moshekga to backtrack on her decision that schools should start on Monday for grade 7s and 12s.
In a joint statement, the organisations said it would be a “grievous mistake to force the reopening of schools on June 1”.
The statement was issued by the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), SA Teachers’ Union (SAOU), Professional Educators’ Union (PEU) and the National Teachers’ Union (Natu).
The Federation of School Governing Bodies of SA, National Association of School Governing Bodies and the Governing Body Foundation, who also undersigned the statement, said: “We do not believe it to be in the best interest of children to return to schools when we know that uncertainty concerning their health and safety reigns.”
Gade told the media briefing the department was making strides to ensure all schools without water and sanitation structures would be catered for.
He said of the 931 schools in the province that had no water supply, 480 were getting water tanks delivered this weekend while the rest would get the tanks by Tuesday.
Gade said the department would work with the health department to link schools to the nearest health facilities and deploy a schools support team of up to 20,000 interns for administrative, hygiene, screening and monitoring support.
“Learner temperatures will be taken daily as part of the screening measures. This is a novel disease and we are learning with everyone the world over on how it behaves.
“Any learners who present with consistently high temperatures or even one-off high temperatures will be placed in a holding room while awaiting collection for referral.”
Gade said the school nutrition programme would begin on Monday and there would be scholar transport for grades returning to school.
“With the Covid-19 focus on grades 12 and 7, we will only need to take care of 13,000 learners. We implore parents to assist us in making sure that the scholar transport vehicles adhere to the rules in that they send their children with masks into the bus and that the vehicle only carries 70% of its occupancy,” Gade said.
On Friday DispatchLIVE spoke to representatives of schools in East London and Butterworth who said their schools were still awaiting PPE.
The school governing body chair of Vuluhlanga secondary school in Butterworth, Mabini Mnguphane, said: “To this day we have not heard a single thing from the department about PPE or anything else. We have taken matters in our own hands to use the little resources we have to deep-clean the school and prepare for the grade 12 learners.”
An East London primary schoolteacher who spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not allowed to speak to the media said: “The PPE at our school still hasn’t arrived. We are hoping something will come over the weekend.”
In his briefing the MEC said: “PPE is being delivered to schools as I speak.”
Gade said the department’s PPE package included sanitisers, soaps, cloth masks, aprons and cleaning materials.
The Eastern Cape’s education system has a long-standing infrastructure backlog.
In his policy speech last week, Gade said the province would require R73.1bn to build new schools and renovate those that had deteriorated.
The superintendent-general of the department, Themba Konjana, who spoke alongside Gade at Friday’s briefing, said contractors would enter schools to fix infrastructure as the lockdown progressed to lower levels.