Basic education minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Teacher unions have expressed concerns about the announcement of the reopening of schools for the third term, saying it should be guided by the third wave.

On Monday minister of basic education Angie Motshekga, who was in the Free State as part of monitoring the vaccination of teachers and support staff, said schools would open on July 19, instead of July 26 as it was originally scheduled in the 2021 school calendar.

This followed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday that all schools will start closing from Wednesday as the country is experiencing a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

Ben Machipi, general secretary of the Professional Educators’ Union, said they supported the school closure in view of the surge in infections

“We are, however, not in support that the opening date should be July 19. We should first observe the impact of the 14-day alert level 4 lockdown on infections before determining when must school reopen,” Machipi said.

Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, said the date for the reopening of schools left them a bit uncomfortable.

“We believe that we should keep the reopening of the schools on the 26 of July because we don’t know if the whole country will have passed the third wave. There are provinces that are far behind in the peak and we don’t want to see continuous changes on the school calendar. The president closed schools but we should keep the holidays as they are,” he said.

SA Democratic Teachers Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the closure of schools must be used to fortify trace and tracking systems in the community and contain the spread of the virus.

Kabelo Mahlobogwane, Educators Union of SA spokesperson, also said the reopening of schools must be guided by the third wave. “Right now the focus is to save lives and that is what we will entertain.”

Motshekga said the council of education ministers met on Monday morning to reflect on the details that Ramaphosa presented during his family meeting on Sunday.

“It was decided that public schools will come back from winter vacation on July 19 instead of July 26. In light of the disruptions to schooling and the move to adjusted level 4, the sector has with immediate effect activated the remote learner support programmes,” Motshekga said.

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