Basic education minister Angie Motshekga speaks to grade 7 pupils at Funukukhanya Primary School at Tsakani in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga speaks to grade 7 pupils at Funukukhanya Primary School at Tsakani in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Significant progress has been made over the past month to prepare for the opening of schools on Monday, a survey by SA’s five teacher unions shows. 

There are, however, some schools that are not fully prepared.

Schools were initially set to open on January 27 but the country was in the midst of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and this date was subsequently pushed to February 15. 

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga is set to have a briefing on Sunday about the state of readiness of schools. 

The five teachers unions — the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), SA Teachers’ Union (SAOU), the National Professional Teachers’s Organisation of SA (Naptosa), the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU) and the National Teachers Union (Natu) — conducted combined surveys of their members in January before schools were set to open, and again in February. School principals in the networks of the five unions had until Tuesday to participate in the survey. 

The second survey received 4,309 responses from principals across the country, which represents about 19% of schools nationally. This translates to one response from each school. 

The unions did not have the resources for some research, such as verification of smaller samples with on-site visits.

According to the survey, 57% of the schools already have all the hand sanitiser required; 39% said they did not yet have it; while the rest said they were not sure. This was up from only 40% of principals saying in January they had the hand sanitiser needed, in comparison to 54% of schools saying they did not have it, and 7% not sure. 

Out of the schools that did not have it, in the February survey 13% said they are confident they would have it; 37% said they would not; and 50% were not sure. 

In terms of surface sanitisers, 59% of schools surveyed had it, while 37% said they did not. This was in comparison to only 30% of schools saying they had it in January. 

There is still a major issue in terms of masks with only 26% of principals surveyed indicating this week that they have all the masks needed when students return on Monday. Sixty-nine percent said they did not have [masks], while 5% said they were not sure. 

This was in comparison to only 20% of schools having them in January; 73% of schools surveyed did not have them then; while 7% were not sure. 

Fifty-two percent of schools do not have the money to procure coronavirus-related supplies from the school budget if needed, while 43% said they did have the money, and 6% said they were not sure if there was money available.

Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of Sadtu, the country’s largest teacher union, said on Friday he is concerned about the lack of responses received from principals in the February survey. He said not enough principals responded and that they are “doing a disservice to their communities”.

In terms of readiness to go to school, he said Sadtu believes there was time to prepare for the return of pupils, so students would have to return. “We believe the schools are ready because we haven’t received anything contrary to that,” he said.


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