Newsletter 321 - Learners return to school on Monday


We are yet to open schools and the media frenzy has happened. It is simply bad planning from the DBE. The planning Angie is facing about schools today should have started and completed more than two months ago

Let’s see what the national media are reporting;


The National School Governing Body Associations (Federation of School Governing Bodies of South Africa, National Association of School Governing Bodies and the Governing Body Foundation) met with the Education Trade Unions ( NAPTOSA, SAOU, PEU and NATU) on 28 May 2020 to consider and discuss the state of readiness of schools to re open on 1 June 2020 as announced by the M inister of Basic Education.

Information gained from members of the U nions and A ssociations on the ground guided the discussions and led to a unanimous position that the education system, as matters currently stand, is not ready for the re opening of schoo ls. Section 28(2) of the Constitution provides that the best interests of children are of paramount importance in every matter concerning children. Whilst we acknowledge that the right to basic education and the necessity for children to return to schools are extremely important rights and considerations, these
considerations cannot trump the best interest principle entrenched in the Constitution. We do not believe
it to be in the best interest of children to return to schools when we know that uncertainty co ncerning
their health and safety reigns.

Furthermore, Article 16 of Convention No. 155 of the ILO states that employers must ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the workplaces, machinery, equipment and work processes under their control are safe and without risk to health. Ensuring health and safety in workplaces must be the highest priority as people return to work emerging from COVID 19 restrictions and closures. Good occupational health and safety protect workers, members of their househol ds and the public.

  • Most Provincial Departments have not been able to deliver Personal Protective Equipment ( or at least sufficient PPEs, for all returning SMT members and teachers.
  • PPEs for learners have not arrived at schools, despite earlier assur ances that they are housed in warehouses in the provinces.
  • Many schools have not been cleaned and disinfected as per the direction of the Department of Employment and Labour
  • Today i s the last working day before schools are due to open on Monday. If the PP Es have not been delivered by now, chances are slim that all schools will have them on Monday.
  • Was this the reason that media reports quoted the Minister as saying that schools that do not have the equipment in place will not re open?

As a collective we wish to highlight our rejection of a staggered opening of schools. No school must be left behind, especially not because of incompetence and tardiness. Given the historical injustices of the past it is obvious which schools will be left behind should a staggered approach to schools reopening be followed. This we cannot allow no matter the justification.

The amended curriculum has, yet, not been provided to schools. Teachers injustices of the past we all know which schools cannot be expected to start teaching when they have not been orientated on the new curriculum. They could be wasting valuable time teaching in terms of the “old” curriculum, whilst they are expected to be concentrating on other aspects of the curriculum. No teacher should be expected to work in the “dark” and no learner should be taught inappropriate content. Over and above the curriculum, teachers also need time to be trained on how to operate in the COVID-19 environment. With so many teachers not returning to schools this week, this essential training is seriously lacking.

The comorbidity issues have also not been battened down properly. The DBE rushed to the ELRC this week in an attempt to hammer out an agreement on a policy in this regard. Discussions are still ongoing. This leaves a substantial group of teachers anxious and uncertain, not knowing whether they are expected to return to school or not.

Taking all these conditions into consideration, unions and national school governing body associations agree that it would be a grievous mistake to force the re-opening of schools on 1 June 2020. It is believed that the Minister should retract her announcement in this regard and delay any further announcement to give the system more time to ready itself for a common re-opening, because if not, we will see a haphazard re-opening situation. Already one province, Northern Cape, announced that schools in that province would only be reopening for learners on 8 June.

What is required is that all provinces should move towards reopening at the same time to give effect to the preamble of the South African Schools Act that contemplates a unitary system of school education for the entire country. As a collective of Unions and SGB Associations we have agreed to meet with the Minister of Education and MECs on Saturday 30 May to express our concerns and place on record that the system needs more time to fully ready itself for the opening of ALL schools. We cannot support a piece - meal approach to the
reopening of school or the leaving behind of the most disadvantaged schools in our country. We therefore call on all schools, even those that might be ready to re-open, having received all the necessary materials for teachers and learners, not to re-open until the non-negotiables have been delivered to all schools and to inform their learners accordingly. To further contribute to disparities between schools would be irresponsible The reaction of the Western Cape to the call not to commence with the opening of schools will be closely scrutinised, especially whether they will show solidarity with the plight of other provinces and indeed, sympathy with the plight of thousands of our teachers and children across the nation.

Parents, learners, teachers and education workers can be assured that we all wish schooling to resume as soon as possible, but not at the expense of their health and safety.

Issued by the following Teacher Unions and National Governing Body Associations:
SADTU: The General Secretary - Mugwena Maluleke - 0827832968
NAPTOSA: The Executive Director - Basil Manuel – 0795086228
NATU: The President - Alan Thompson - 0736078141
PEU: The General Secretary - Ben Machipi - 0795151165
SAOU: The Executive Director - Chris Klopper – 0837087733
FEDSAS: The Chief Executive Officer-Paul Colditz – 082414-5359
NASGB: The Chief Executive Officer- Matekanye Matakanye- 072 283 4653
GBF: The Chief Executive Officer- Anthea Cereseto – 082619 5756


“School principals and cleaners back at work as Western Cape aims for June 1” [BY DAVE CHAMBERS - 20 May 2020]

  • Nearly every school principal and cleaner in the Western Cape has returned to work to prepare for the arrival of pupils from June 1.
  • After basic education minister Angie Motshekga's announcement on Tuesday about the gradual reopening of schools, education MEC Debbie Schäfer said preparations in the Western Cape were progressing well amid understandable anxiety.
  • About 95% of principals and 94% of cleaners were back at work, she said, adding: “We cannot keep schools closed indefinitely.”


“Angie Motshekga outlines June 1 back to school”

  • Safety and hygiene equipment being delivered to schools within the next week would include two masks for every pupil and staff member, hand sanitiser, liquid soap, cleaning materials and non-contact digital thermometers.
  • “Principals will also oversee the thorough cleaning of schools in preparation for school staff and learners to arrive,” said Schäfer.
  • “The cleaning materials being delivered to schools include bleach, which is recommended by both South African and international health authorities for disinfecting surfaces.”
  • A list of comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes and TB, had been sent to schools, and parents whose children had them would be “offered the opportunity to oversee their children’s learning at home with the support of the department [of education] over the next few months, or until restrictions are lifted”.
  • Staff with comorbidities would need to provide a medical report about their condition, after which appropriate working arrangements or leave would be considered.
  • Schäfer said school staff would be asked to screen pupils and colleagues by asking questions about symptoms and taking their temperature.
  • “This requires no medical expertise,” she said, and if staff did it, it would minimise the extra people on school premises. “It is important that schools devise a method to implement this as quickly as possible, to minimise loss of teaching time.”
  • With the phased return of pupils, physical distancing would be simple initially. “The difficulty arises when more grades return to school, and space becomes a problem,” said Schäfer.
  • “One of the key tasks of our returning senior management teams is to develop plans to teach in a new way, while the appropriate physical distance is maintained.
  • “We have no intention of relaxing the physical distancing requirement at schools. When this maximum number is exceeded in the phased return, we are currently determining which option will be implemented – be it grades attending class on alternate days, uses of school halls as classrooms, or any of the many helpful proposals we have received from officials and the public alike.”
  • Schäfer said the curriculum had been trimmed “to ensure that the essential concepts required for progression to the next grade are taught”.
  • She added: “This does not apply to matric, though, which will proceed as normal, with catch-up plans to be implemented. We do not plan to have 'matric camps' in the Western Cape.”
  • Schools had been sent “detailed lists of steps that need to be taken to prepare, and more will follow shortly, including how a school must deal with cases of Covid-19 in a school. We shall publish more detail regarding that once the document is finalized.

“Teachers' unions survey finds 60% of principals not yet informed about guidelines for re-opening of schools” by YOLISWA SOBUWA - 20 May 2020

  • Teachers' unions survey finds 60% of principals not yet informed about guidelines for re-opening of schools.
  • A national baseline survey of principals on school readiness shows that 60% of school principals had not yet been contacted by their circuit managers to explain what was required of them in terms of dealing with Covid-19.
  • The survey was compiled by the health science team five different education unions are working with.
  • The South African Democratic Teachers' Union(Sadtu), National Professional Teachers' Organisation (Naptosa), South African Teachers' Union (SAOU), National Teachers' Union (Natu) and Professional Education Union (PEU) said the purpose of the survey was to give an indication of self-reported co-morbidity data at provincial and district level, and by the type of school, so that broad information on the possible need for additional teachers is available to add to planning. 
  • The unions said the survey was sent to all members but only principals were asked to submit their response.
  • According to the survey, 79% of schools that responded had not yet received the necessary regulations.
  • "92% of schools that responded to the survey reported that offices had not yet been cleaned or disinfected. The Northern Cape and Western Cape made the most progress in cleaning and disinfecting offices. 78% of schools reported that their sanitation facilities did not have soap water," read the survey report.
  • In a joint statement, the teacher unions said they had often seen that information fed by officials to provincial departments and from provincial departments to the minister Angie Motshekga did not reflect the actual situation
  • "Considering the information given by the minister and the results of the survey it is clear this might once again be one of those cases because there are definite discrepancies between the two sets of information, hence the unions need to release the results of the survey," read the statement.
  • The survey comes a day after Motshekga briefed the media on the state of readiness for the re-opening of schools.


Nearly every school principal and cleaner in the Western Cape has returned to work to 

By Roland Mpofu

  • Johannesburg - A joint survey conducted by South Africa's teacher unions has shown that no more than 55% of principals report being ready to resume teaching and learning when schools open on Monday. The Sunday Independent was given exclusive access to the results of the survey on Saturday.
  • The survey, which was completed on May 29, was conducted to strengthen the collaboration between the Basic Education Department and unions who share the goal of ensuring that schools are safe for teachers and learners to return.
  • A total of 6 616 principles across the country participated in the online survey.
  • The school principals were asked questions related to institutional readiness and school management processes necessary for the return of learners on June 01.
  • The survey was based on the Department of Basic Education's guidelines and requirements such as the progress nationally in: delivery of sanitisers, contact with Circuit Managers, availability of cleaning materials for sanitisation, cleaning of classrooms and offices and contact with School Governing Bodies (SGBs).
  • In terms of adequate water for Covid-19 cleaning, the results shows that Gauteng and Western Cape scored above 80 percent in terms of readiness while the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga scored low and the Eastern Cape a mere 40 percent.
  • In terms of provision of face masks, all provinces scored below 25 percent except Western Cape which scored 84 percent.
  • The leaked survey concluded that some challenges are common across as many as 6 provinces, such as 

* inadequate water for Covid-19 requirements (6 provinces), 

*insufficient masks delivered (two per person) (8 provinces). 

* water tanks that are required not yet delivered (6 provinces), 

  • While some provinces have multiple challenges (4 challenges or more). Leading in this category is EC (9) and Mpumalanga (9), Limpopo (6), North West (5), KZN (4) and Northern Cape (4).  


Cape Town - Education MEC Debbie Schäfer has revealed that 32 schools and 37 school staff members have been affected by Covid-19 in the Western Cape ahead of the schools reopening on Monday.

  • Schäfer said they have received a number of media inquiries about cases of Covid-19 at schools in the province, and that while they understand that the public is entitled to be informed, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) also has a duty to ensure that the information given does not compromise the confidentiality of staff or learners. 
  • "Our staff is under enough stress without their individual schools being named in the media, which will also lead to further inquiries and added pressure.
  • "In addition, simply giving figures in the absence of any context or relevant factual information is not helpful, and could further aggravate the anxiety.  Each case will have unique facts associated with it, which the schools will manage," Schäfer said.
  • "Parents and staff at a school have the right to know about any case at their particular school, and thus schools are expected to keep staff and parents informed of the developments related to Covid-19, and the steps that have been taken to ensure their safety."
  • Schäfer said that they have opted to provide the number of cases per district, but that the number of schools with confirmed staff cases does not mean that they contracted the virus at the school, nor does it mean that the school is at risk. 
  • "In many of the cases, the staff member has not even returned to school since schools reopened as they fell ill before returning," the MEC said.


Confirmed school cases

Confirmed staff cases



















Central Karoo






West Coast







South Africa should delay reopening of schools: Human Rights Commission

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has written to minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga recommending that she reconsider the return of students to schools from 1 June.

The SAHRC said it has performed independent monitoring of schools for readiness in all nine provinces and has held consultations with various stakeholders, including teachers’ unions and school governing bodies.

The Commission said it supports the opening of schools as soon as possible in order to give effect to the rights of learners to education. However, it said that this should be done in tandem with reasonable and adequate measures and efforts to safeguard the right to health of learners and educators.

“It is thus important that necessary minimum conditions that need to be met for the re-opening of schools, such as access to adequate clean water and sanitation, social distancing, the availability of personal protective equipment, training and the general sanitisation of schools, are met,” it said.

“Feedback from our provincial offices is that many schools have not achieved the required readiness to receive learners.”

The SAHRC said that most observations from its provincial offices highlight the shortage or inadequacy of water and sanitation as well as personal protective equipment.

In addition to its own independent monitoring of schools, the Commission has had consultations with stakeholders specifically, teachers’ unions and school governing bodies, it said.

“The various teachers’ unions have urged us that the conditions necessary for the proposed opening of schools for grade 7 and 12 learners, announced by yourselves, have not yet been met.

“They said that they based this conclusion upon their own observations on the ground. The schools governing bodies informed the Commission this afternoon that, as of today, (28 May 2020) about 3,500 schools still have no adequate water.”

“All these reports give the Commission concerns whether, and considering that only three days remain before the date of opening as well as the amount of work that appears still remaining to be done, the schools will be ready to receive learners with the expected levels of safety by 01 June 2020.”

The commission said it has therefore communicated its concerns by letter to the Minister and recommended that she reconsiders the date for reopening the schools.


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