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Communities urged to protect schools

In Gauteng, SGB members disrupted 83 schools in total on Thursday, last week.

As grade 7 learners prepare to return to school on Tuesday, the basic education department has urged communities to protect schools.

Grade 12s returned to the classroom on Monday, last week, after a week-long break.

This comes as schools have been threatened by individuals and organisations to keep their doors shut through disruptions as a result of Covid-19.

Education departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had become aware of attempts made by some members of school governing bodies (SGB) around the country to close schools and disrupt learning.

ALSO READ: Schools should close for even longer – teacher’s union

Mhlanga said in Gauteng, SGB members disrupted 83 schools last week Thursday.

“There are reports of the congress of South African students (Cosas) also disrupting schools across the province,” he said.

Cosas members protested in Soshanguve against the reopening of schools in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The department would like to remind SGB members that the closing of schools remains a legal function reserved for the provincial head of department. When members of an SGB act outside the legal dictates of their role and function, they risk the immediate disbandment of the entire school governing body.”

He said the council of education ministers had warned that any individual or group disrupting learning at schools would be reported to the authorities and the department reserved the right to charge them with violation of the South Africans schools act.

The council, led by basic education minister Angie Motshekga, said it was “dismayed” by ongoing sporadic attempts by political and civic organisations to disrupt learning at some schools around the country.

Motshekga warned political and civic organisations they would soon face legal action if these disruptions continued.

“Failure to desist from these regrettable acts will leave us no choice,” she said.

Cosas Tshwane regional secretary Thabiso Mhlangu said learners were ready to return to school but the department was not ready.

“You will find that in some schools no protective personal equipment has been delivered and the environment is not conducive for our learners,” he said.

“The department failed learners long before this pandemic came and we cannot rely on them now during the peak of the pandemic.”

Mhlangu said they were not calling for the department to cancel the current academic year, but to extend it.

“Let it end next year, maybe around May, and we can then start a new one next year June.”

Mhlangu said there was fear that other grades that have not been to school since the lockdown, would not cope with the pressure of having to wrap up the current academic year.

ALSO READ: DA calls for Motshekga to decide on schools closure soon

“Those grades would not cope because they have not done anything since they were at home. We have learners who are struggling to pass during a period of 12 months. How are they expected to pass in a period of three to four months? It would be too much for them.”

Mhlangu said it could not be right that other grades were given four weeks to stay at home, while matrics have only been given one week.

He said private and public schools should shut down, adding that last week, the student organisation closed down Curro Academy and Prestige College in Soshanguve.

“We are busy with private schools. We believe that everyone must be treated equal because it cannot be right that learners from the private sector are suffering and we are not representing them.”

Mahlangu said Cosas wanted to protect the rights of learners.

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