24 July 2020
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) and its affiliated education sector unions, NAPTOSA, PSA and SAOU has reacted with mixed emotion, albeit disappointment, on the staggered closure of public schools announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening, in response to the over COVID-19 pandemic which is rising to its peak and could make schools the epicentre of transmission of infections. The specific exceptions included as part of the announcement leaves the federation reeling with more questions than answers, alongside the glaring absence of private schools, clearly perceived as a perpetuation of inequalities during this very difficult and anxious period for educators, learners and parents alike. The principle that no one should be left behind then simply holds no meaning, and only serves to drive populist rhetoric.
FEDUSA and its affiliates raised concern about the potential of an abrupt closure of schools without a proper plan of action, as this only exacerbates the disruption to the system. Schools have in no way been provided with sufficient time to inform parents, e.g. in the case of school hostels, and to ensure that timeous and appropriate arrangements can be made. Moreover, the Federation is disappointed that Grades 7 and 12 will only close for one and two weeks respectively, once again raising serious anxieties about curbing the spread of COVID-19. South Africa has close to eighteen million learners and close to five hundred thousand educators commuting daily to and from the various schools. The reasoning and logic of this decision is muddled with incoherence and it is not clear that the National Command Council has applied its collective mind to the exposure risks that it entails.
Extending the school calendar into the first quarter of the next year is good strategic move that will enable the schooling system to recover all the times that have been caused by the pandemic’s disruptions. In this instance, FEDUSA and its affiliates are of the opinion that the assessment of Grades R to 11 considering the promotion and progression requirements, will have to receive attention anew. Gr 1 learners have received a minimum of teaching and therefore they should also receive priority attention
FEDUSA also welcomes the President’s announcement that school nutrition and feeding schemes will continue over the period so that children are not exposed to hunger which could have negative effects on their physical and mental developments. However, the threat of schools becoming centres of transmission to the children themselves (6 million recipients), their parents and the communities they come from has not been removed, as the administration of the nutrition programmes remains questionable.
Afriforte MD Professor Ina Rothmann, recently outlined that new research on the mental health of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an anxiety condition which 46% of employees were at high risk of experiencing. Instead of allowing the most noble, yet underrated profession, to be send to the slaughterhouse, FEDUSA insists that this time of school closure must be used by Education Officials to provide adequate PPE supplies to schools, as at least 6 provinces have already exhausted their substandard supplies without any sign of replacement.
Every effort to monitor the safety and wellbeing of educators and learners will be prioritized by FEDUSA to avoid any risks that may have devastating consequences and reverse the gains of the lockdown.
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam FEDUSA General Secretary 079 696 2626
Mr Basil Manuel NAPTOSA Executive Director 079 508 6228
Mr Leon Gilbert PSA Acting General Manager 082 883 7239
Mr Chris Klopper SAOU Executive Director 083 708 7733
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096