The top unions affiliated to education in KwaZulu-Natal have called on their members, mainly teachers and support staff, to refrain from attending school on Thursday.
“We advise our members not to report to schools on [Thursday] because schools are not ready to receive them under the Covid-19 related protocols. We must be consistent – education in this province will commence when all schools are ready to receive learners and teachers safely,” said five of the top unions, including the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), on Wednesday afternoon.
The statement was released by Sadtu, together with union heavyweights National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), National Teachers Union (Natu), SA Teachers Union (SAOU) and Professional Educators Union (PEU).
The unions stated that their representatives in the various districts “confirm unanimously that not all schools have received the agreed upon PPEs (personal protective equipment), sanitisation and disinfecting materials”.
“Schools have not had existing water tanks filled, neither have all schools been cleaned nor had the grass been cut. Reports indicate handwash basins have not been delivered either. How are schools to be cleaned if they have no water?”
No steering committee meetings
The unions added that the provincial steering committee, which monitors and assesses schools’ readiness to open, was disregarded and had last met on 19 May.
“The indefinite postponement of this committee meeting on two occasions leads the unions to conclude that the department has either chosen not to consult or refused to take the unions into their confidence, and indicates the lack of readiness to reopen the schools,” the unions said.
The unions further accused the department of ignoring the coronavirus recommendations published by the department of basic education (DBE).
“This province has ignored recommendations in this document without consulting unions or other stakeholders. Unlike other provinces that have started collating information on educators over the age of 60, and employees with comorbidities, this province has given no direction,” it said.
“[It is] indicative of their failure to support and calm the already anxious employees. The Coronavirus Orientation Guidelines for Schools, published by the DBE, provides guidance, and unions are advising members accordingly.”
The unions further stated the department issued “vague circulars that have caused confusion and left employees with more questions than answers”.
Furthermore, it added the unions had not been consulted on two of the circulars, including one issued on 20 May, which stated that the department was ready to receive district officials and teachers safely.
The unions believe this is not the case.
“The unions, whose members are at the different sites, reported the scenario to be very different.”
News24 reached out to MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu for comment. He did not immediately respond. The comment will be added once received.