Parents have expressed their frustration at the basic education ministry’s last minute U-turn on grade 7 and 12 pupils returning to school on Monday.
On Sunday evening, the office of basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced the postponement of a scheduled media briefing in which she was due to update the nation on the readiness of schools as pupils from the two grades were scheduled to return to school.
Instead, Motshekga’s office issued a statement saying plans to send children back to school had been put on hold. She is expected to hold the briefing later on Monday.
“My child is doing Grade 7. The school is ready in terms of accepting pupils back at school. The issue for me is the miscommunication from government as it is causing confusion and uncertainty. I don’t know whether I should take the child to school tomorrow,” one parent told TimesLIVE on Sunday.
“The late announcements by government on a Sunday when school is supposed to start the next day [Monday] shows they are unprepared and are disrespectful towards parents. If there were any consultations by the minister, she should have made an announcement a week before the opening,” she said.
Another parent agreed. She said the uncertainty was “torture” for a child.
“My child has already polished her school shoes, got her uniform ready and her bag packed. She’s excited about going to Grade 8 next year and is excited to go to school. This is really not fair,” the woman said.
Schools have been shut for more than two months, and Motshekga had announced the phased reopening of facilities.
Two parents said they had earlier driven their children back to their boarding schools.
They told TimesLIVE they were not in a position to fetch their children again as the drive to the school was long and costly.
“The minister is seriously toying with our children’s lives. If she is uncertain about what she is doing, she should move over to give other people, who are more competent, a chance to lead,” said the parent of one boarding pupil.
“They are inconsiderate of the travelling arrangements and costs we have made to get our children back to school, as per their instruction. In a tough economy like today’s, who will reimburse us?” the parent said.
One of the boarding schools that had taken back scores of pupils because of the anticipated reopening was the Nyanga High in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape.
Eager to get children back to class, the school had opened its doors for matric pupils over the weekend, and coronavirus orientation was given to the matric pupils.
The pupils were given their personal protective equipment (PPE) and were allocated to their hostels and classes.
Motshekga’s office said it aware some boarders had already returned to schools.
“We have received reports that indicate some learners in boarding schools have already arrived. We urge the schools to continue with orientation of the learners in terms of the health and safety procedures that should be in place,” a statement from her office read.
She said schooling for Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners would officially get under way on June 8, and the rest of this week would be used to ensure teachers were orientated and had received their required PPE.
This decision was taken after meetings with the council of education ministry (CEM) on Saturday, when Motshekga said she learnt a substantial number of schools (around 20%) would not be ready to reopen.
The late announcement left the Western Cape education ministry flummoxed.
“We have been engaged in discussions at a national level over the weekend, and were awaiting the minister’s announcement scheduled for 6pm [on Sunday]. Given that this has now been postponed until tomorrow [Monday], we can no longer allow our schools to hover in a state of uncertainty,” read a statement from the Western Cape education department (WCED).
“Following the national minister’s earlier announcements, we have pulled out all the stops as a province to ensure we are ready for the arrival of learners. Principals and staff have worked tirelessly to get all the health and safety requirements in place,” the department said.
It said it had received the required PPEs for both pupils and teachers.
“Learners have already begun to arrive at school hostels today [Sunday], and parents have made preparations to take their children to school in the morning. School staff and WCED officials have been working around the clock to ensure all plans are in place to receive those learners on time.
“Given these preparations, and the enormous effort put in by teachers and non-teaching staff alike, it would be unfair to delay all schools from reopening,” the department said.
Some schools in the province, however, issued notices to parents, telling them to keep their children at home. The Western Cape education department said these schools would be allowed to remain closed for now.
“There will also be some schools that do not receive learners, either because they are not at a suitable state of readiness in terms of safety protocols, or they are closed for cleaning if there has been a confirmed case of Covid-19 at the school. These schools will communicate with their staff members and parents of learners in this regard,” the province said.
By Naledi Shange – TimesLIVE