The Eastern Cape department of education says not all schools will be ready to reopen on Monday, and does not yet know the exact number of schools affected by backlogs in the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The was confirmed by Education MEC Fundile Gade and department head Themba Kojana at a media briefing in East London on Friday afternoon.
Gade said the process of delivering the life-saving equipment to more than 5,000 schools in the province was under way.
He added because schools were receiving the PPE at the time of the press briefing, he could not confirm the number of schools that had not received it.
However, Gade made it clear there would be delays in reopening some schools, saying those that did not receive PPE by Monday morning would only reopen on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“We have received responses from more than 15,000 suppliers across the province. The first cohort of 36 suppliers was for the delivery of PPE to the SMTs [school management teams] and teachers.
“We have more than 200 suppliers that have been given their appointment letters for the learner cohort of PPE delivery. PPE is being delivered to schools as I speak. Our package of PPE includes sanitisers, hand-washing soap, cloth masks, aprons, cleaning materials, among others.”
Kojana told the briefing that alleged acts of sabotage among rival suppliers were crippling the supply of PPE in some districts.
He said protests in and around the OR Tambo district by small-to-medium enterprises, who felt they were being overlooked for the tender to deliver the kits, had caused massive delays.
Kojana added the hotspot for the supply impasse was the coastal district of the OR Tambo Municipality, where trucks carrying PPE were blocked from delivering it to schools.
He said as a result, only 4% of the schools in the area had received PPE.
“But in the Joe Gqabi District, 91% of schools have received the equipment and in Amathole East, 51% of schools have received it. But we can’t have the numbers now because as we speak the equipment is being delivered to schools.”
The department said other delays were caused by the vandalism of schools during the lockdown period.
“We can’t fix vandalised schools in one day, so those schools will not reopen until the issue is sorted,” said communications chief director Dr Naledi Mbude.
Gade said 13,000 pupils from two grades were expected to show up when schools reopened, adding this meant social distancing was guaranteed.
However, there were no guarantees a child would not contract the virus, said Kojana.
“There are no guarantees. There is no guarantee what will happen outside when we step out of this media briefing. Parents also need to take action to ensure the safety of their children.”
If the child caught the virus at school, it would be closed for deep cleaning and decontamination, said Kojana, adding pupils would only return once the cleaning process was over while the one who tested positive would be isolated.
About 20,000 unemployed people would be drafted at the province’s schools as support staff, said Gade.
“Our schools were closed during the lockdown therefore the department has offered an opportunity for unemployed youth from local communities to act as support teams to clean schools and screen learners. They will receive a stipend of R2,100 per month for a period of three months.
“The department is currently engaging on the possibilities of renewable contracts. A total of 20,000 people will have gainful employment during this period.”
He added an additional 900 interns would be hired to offer administrative, hygiene, screening and monitoring support.
Gade said out of the 931 schools without a water supply, 480 have received water tanks while the rest would be addressed soon.