The Professional Educators’ Union (PEU) and the South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) have insisted that strict protocols be followed in anticipation of the reopening of schools, which is expected to be phased in in May.
A briefing by the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education is expected on Thursday regarding the plans for schools and universities going forward.
In a statement on Wednesday, PEU president Montana Johannes said the Department of Basic Education needed to ensure that certain conditions were followed “without compromise before schools can reopen”.
On Tuesday, SAOU CEO Chris Klopper maintained that the safety and health of educators and pupils must be of primary concern.
“The recovery of lost schoolwork during the past 25 schooldays will be the easiest component to implement, but the assurance of the health and safety of all persons, as well as the prevention of infections, the most complex,” Klopper said.
He added: “The standing committee of the SAOU also resolved that, if required, the court will be requested to issue an appropriate instruction to guarantee compliance with the above reasonable requirements, and to ensure the lives and health of school staff and learners”.
Among these conditions for both unions include hygiene practices, such as the regular sanitation of schools, the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, temperature scanners for schools, sanitation packs including sanitisers, a clear plan for the implementation of physical distancing, as well as clear safety protocols for pupils and teachers.
Johannes added that, for overcrowded schools, the provision of mobile classrooms was important. He said the employment of cleaners and the need for water tanks for rural schools were also essential.
He said there needed to be clear plans for pupils who were at home while their parents went back to work, as well as plans for how private transport for pupils would be handled.
Johannes said school management teams and school governing bodies needed to be trained on how to deal with suspect Covid-19 cases and additional teachers, where needed, had to be employed.
“As PEU, we take very seriously the issue of a curriculum recovery plan, but under no circumstances can we take any form of risk to expose our members to this deadly Covid-19,” Johannes said.
Johannes also added there needed to be an assurance that hygiene and safety regulations would be complied with, saying “you cannot replace lives”.