Basic education minister, Angie Motshekga, 30 April 2020. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE / GCIS
Basic education minister, Angie Motshekga, 30 April 2020. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE / GCIS

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has delayed Thursday’s planned announcement about when schools will reopen, saying she still has to determine whether provincial education departments are ready to do so.

At issue is whether provincial education departments have put the necessary measures in place to convince teacher unions that schools are a safe workplace that can fulfil the hygiene and social distancing protocols set out by the education department.

The minister has run into stiff opposition from teacher unions, who say schools will not be ready to safely open on the June 1 target date she has proposed and have advised their members not to return to work. Teachers were due to return to schools on Monday, May 18, ahead of the phased return of learners, starting with grades 12 and 7 on June 1. But many schools have not received deliveries of masks or sanitisers.

Motshekga said in a statement released on Thursday morning that she would convene a special meeting of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) on May 18 to review the state of readiness of the provinces. The CEM includes all the MECs for education, and the heads of the provincial education departments.

“We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise outstanding [matters]. So on Monday (May 18) we will reconvene to consider progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness. A lot of work has happened and we are happy with the progress reported in the last meeting but we need confirmation of deliveries that provinces were waiting for,” Motshekga said.

She attributed delays in delivering personal protective equipment to schools to supplier challenges that had forced provinces to cancel contracts and find new suppliers.

She is expected to address the media after the CEM meeting.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za