Review Online
3 minute read
2 Jun 2020
10:26 am

PPE suppliers overstating capability adds to halting of back-to-school date

Review Online

On the upside, there is an increasing number of schools that were meeting the readiness requirements.

Image: iStock

A dire undersupply of masks and suppliers overstating their delivering capability were noted by the National Education Collaboration Trust as having contributed to the new return-to-school date of 8 June, reports Review Online.

Only Gauteng and the Western Cape were fully prepared to accept Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners back at school today, had the date not been changed to that of 8 June.

This was announced earlier on Monday during a briefing by Godwin Khosa, the CEO of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), when he highlighted parts of a report that was prepared towards the end of last week.

The NECT’s task, he said, was to undertake the monitoring and evaluation of the readiness of schools ahead of the envisioned date of today, when learners in Grade 7 and Grade 12 were supposed to return to school. This date was, however, changed last evening after lengthy discussions on Saturday between Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the council of education ministers, teacher unions, and governing body associations.

The Northern Cape, Free State, North West and the Eastern Cape were all regarded as medium risk, while schools in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal were seen as high risk in terms of readiness to open on 1 June. Khosa highlighted that these observations were made based on verifiable information supplied by the provinces ahead of Saturday’s meeting.

He further said that the trust had observed anxiety over the re-opening of schools in certain provinces and that the department had been at different levels of preparedness in the various provinces.

He attributed this to, among other things, the fast pace at which personal protective equipment (PPE) was to be procured, and the varying ability on the part of the provincial departments to respond to the task of preparing schools. Rand Water, he said, was also making progress in terms of water supply to schools where this was a dire need.

“The closer we got to what the blockages were, the more we realised that part of the challenge was on the supply side. There was a dire undersupply of masks. Some suppliers overstated their readiness to deliver and this had a knock-on effect on the pace of delivery.”

From an administrative point of view, he said supply chain processes on a provincial level could not deal with the speed of how fast PPE should have been procured, as the initial arrangement was that this was supposed to have been done through Treasury. This was, however, later amended to a new system.

He said the decision to instead postpone the return of learners was based on several questions, which included the readiness of schools to receive teachers, staff and learners, what blockages might have been preventing this readiness, what the health and safety risks where, and observations with regard to the system.

“Although much work had been done in the last three to four weeks, the absence of emergency response systems in schools made it difficult to manage preparations,” he said, adding that PPE tracking and verification had been in different stages of readiness.

Based on PPE delivery tracking and data from school surveys, it was decided that the date of 1 June was highly unlikely for the return of learners to schools, he said.

In conclusion, he said they did anticipate that deliveries would last until 31 May, which would not have been in time to inform learners and staff of the necessary protocol. On the upside, he said there was an increasing number of schools that were meeting the readiness requirements.

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