Teachers’ union digs in its heels over return to work
Sadtu says the education department has not done enough to protect the safety of its members
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has thrown a spanner into the government’s plans for schools to reopen, saying it will not allow its members to report for duty because the department of education has failed to meet minimum requirements to ensure their safety.
School management teams are required to report to schools on Monday and teachers the following Monday. Schools are to restart in a phased manner, with the first pupils potentially resuming classes on June 1.
The department of basic education said provinces had indicated they were not ready and Sadtu “has done the right thing to inform their members”.
“We are in agreement on this matter,” department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said.
In a statement on Sunday the Sadtu secretariat under general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said basic education minister Angie Motshekga had made commitments in terms of the readiness of schools before they were opened, which had not been met.
These non-negotiable commitments included the fumigation and disinfecting of schools, proper school infrastructure in the form of proper toilet facilities, observance of social distancing, reduction in class sizes, provision of soap, sanitisers and masks, and the screening of pupils, teachers and support personnel.
Sadtu said personal protective equipment had not been procured for the office-based personnel, school-based educators and support personnel, and the disinfecting of schools and offices had not reached 25%.
“It is unlawful to expect workers to report for duty when their safety is not guaranteed,” the Sadtu secretariat said.
Mhlanga said the department was of the view that the safety of pupils and teachers is paramount.
“The intention is not to resume duty at all costs. Tomorrow the minister will meet with MECs and unions thereafter to deliberate further on the recovery plan,” he said. “An announcement will follow thereafter. The support and contribution of teacher unions has been extremely important in this regard.”