The postponement of the reopening of schools has been welcomed by political parties and teachers’ unions alike.
The Department of Basic Education announced the reopening of schools for learners to 15 February, amid the second wave of Covid-19.
In a statement, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) commended the “logical decision”.
“It is particularly a wise decision, as the new variant of Covid-19, has been identified to be prevalent even amongst young people without any underlying conditions, meaning that reopening of schools would have amounted to the sacrificing of the future of our nation to the deadly virus,” said the party.
It further called on all schools that had already been opened to shut their doors until 15 February.
“All schools must be closed immediately. If this is not done the EFF will ensure that all schools are closed. We are not going to be harassed and embarrassed by a snobbish government that thinks white people and the rich are better than blacks and can exist outside of the standards set for the rest of society,” it said.
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One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane also welcomed the decision but called on government to ensure all the safety precautions were met when schools reopen next month.
“Every school must have running water, working toilets, adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] and sanitisers in every classroom. Those are the basic conditions that must be met for us to consider the reopening of schools as done safely. Let us hope that it’s done by February 15. No shortcuts/ excuses.
Democratic Alliance (DA) education spokesperson Baxolile Nodada said the party did not support the delay, arguing that it would likely do more harm than good.
“The DA recognises that South Africa is currently well within its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and we strongly believe that the opening of schools should not compromise the health of learners and teachers. It is for this reason that the DA calls for educators to be classified as essential frontline workers in order for them to be prioritised after healthcare workers and at-risk civilians for the Covid vaccine,” said Nodada in a statement.
The party argued that vaccinating teachers was the only way, calling on government to prioritise them.
“Ultimately, vaccination is the only guarantee that South Africans have of returning to normality in 2021. Most of the rest of the world have already started their vaccination programmes, and the DA will fight to make sure that South Africans are not, as usual, let down and left behind by the ANC-led government.”
The Professional Educators Union (PEU) said it was in agreement with the postponement of the reopening of schools.
“The current state of affairs in terms of the second wave critically demand that such a collective agreement is much needed than before, to safe the lives of so many educators with underlying conditions and will push to expedite that agreement,” PEU general secretary Ben Machipi said.
Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde