The return of staff to schools in KwaZulu-Natal has been delayed until later in the week as the education department works to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to all schools.
The announcement was made by Premier Sihle Zikalala, who, together with MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu, briefed the media on the reopening of schools in KZN as well as the latest Covid-19 numbers.
“We want to announce that, in KwaZulu-Natal, teachers and school management teams (SMTs) will not be expected to report to school tomorrow (Momday), as previously announced. This is done in order to ensure that all the schools have been thoroughly cleaned and that the delivery of all essentials, especially PPEs, have reached all our schools,” he said on Sunday.
Zikalala said the decision came because “the demand for these essentials far outstrips the supply and, as such, some schools are not yet in possession of all the equipment”.
“This decision is in the interest of the safety of our staff and learners. We will rather be delayed in commencing with the academic programmes than risk the health and safety of our workers. All our teachers will now report on Thursday, 28 May, 2020.”
The change of plan comes as the biggest teacher union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), early on Sunday instructed its members, who make up the large majority of teachers and support staff, to refrain from returning to school.
In a statement, Sadtu said: “Schools in KwaZulu-Natal are not ready in complying with Covid-19 regulations and we therefore advise workers in education not to report for duty on 25 May, 2020, until the employer has ensured compliance and until the union is confident about the state of readiness.”
Mshengu said his department noted the concerns of the unions.
He added that the two parties agreed on certain matters, but not all.
“We went to the premier and consulted with the Minister of Basic Education in our own assessment that we are not ready to receive teachers on Monday, and to push it to Thursday.”
He said the delay was due to delivery from suppliers.
“There has been an issue with turnaround time in delivery from suppliers. Between today and Wednesday, we want to ensure these PPEs are delivered. Spray pumps are the main issue with sanitising in our schools.
“We are expecting principals to be at the schools to receive the PPEs tomorrow (Monday), but other staff will only come back on Thursday.”
Zikalala also released the latest KZN Covid-19 numbers, with the province’s Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu confirming there had been nine positive cases at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital.
“We can confirm nine positive cases, of which six are healthcare workers and three are patients.”
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu and DA MPL Rishigen Viranna this past week told News24 they had confirmed the cases through senior officials at the hospital.
Zikalala, meanwhile, stated the province was doing well in the fight against Covid-19, confirming 1 175 positive cases and three more deaths this week, taking the death toll to 49.
He said the iLembe District had the highest number of cases per capita, with 53.5 per 100 000 compared to the 30.0 per 100 000 in the eThekwini Metro.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to make further announcements on the lockdown, and provide an update on the latest with regard to the country’s battle against Covid-19, when he addresses the nation at 19:00 on Sunday.
Note: Due to different reporting times, the provincial numbers will differ to the national numbers for given provinces by a few cases per day.