Education rights groups Equal Education (EE), the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and Section 27 have asked Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to provide clarity and details about her plans when she publicly announces the phased reopening of schools.
Motshekga is expected to inform the nation on Thursday how and when the schools will be reopened.
In a joint statement, EE, EELC and Section 27 said over the last two weeks, inconsistent and contradictory information had been communicated by the department, leading to confusion and anxiety.
“Thursday’s briefing by Motshekga presents an opportunity to clarify and provide vital detail on what teachers, caregivers and learners should expect in preparation for the reopening of schools, as well as the implications of some grades of pupils possibly being at home for an extended period of time.
“It has been over seven weeks since schools were first closed. While we understand that learners’ usual access to education has necessarily had to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the department is still required to ensure that the limitation on the right to basic education is reasonable and justifiable in terms of the Constitution,” the organisations said.
They have called on the department to ensure plans presented by Motshekga were implemented.
The organisations have asked for full details of the impact of the phased reopening of schools benefiting from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
“… undocumented pupils who do not currently benefit from the child support grant are in need of meals that they would ordinarily receive at school. The suspension of the NSNP is a regressive measure that must be fully justified.
“… details on the resources and support that will be provided both to pupils with disabilities returning to school and pupils who may have to remain at home, and detailed plans regarding special school hostels,” the organisations said.
They also demanded clear time-bound plans and budget information detailing the identified need and provision of the protective personal equipment (PPE), adequate water and toilet facilities at schools, scholar transport, additional classroom space and teachers as well as psychosocial support.
“Clear plans detailing the implications of and measures that will be put in place to support caregivers, teachers and pupils in circumstances where the department’s ‘non-negotiables’ for a school reopening have not been met.
“We note that some provincial education departments have indicated that they will not have received PPE before the tentative date proposed for principals and teaching staff to return to school.
“Clear plans detailing the resources that will be provided to learners at home and their teachers to support teaching and learning, taking into account the prolonged impact of school closures on the right to education,” the organisations said.
They added clear plans outlining the implications of a change in alert levels within or between provinces or districts on the phased re-opening of schools, and alternatives to be implemented.
They also asked the department to provide full details of the scientific evidence on which the department had relied on to inform its decision-making and planning.
“It is imperative that these plans and documents are made publicly available on the department’s website for effective engagement. In addition, caregivers, teachers and learners must be informed regularly about these plans through the use of broadcast media.
“This is necessary to ensure transparency, accountability and a level of confidence among caregivers, learners and teachers in the department’s plans.”