The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) welcomes the decision by President Cyril Rampahosa to close approximately 6 200 government schools in the province from Wednesday until after Easter, in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19.
We also welcome the President’s ban on gatherings of more than 100 people which is particularly relevant here in KZN where there are as many as 115 learners in one classroom in certain schools.
While the DA welcomes the closure of schools, the reality is that this is not a long-term solution. Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon and while closure will certainly help mitigate the spread of the virus, it won’t solve the problem.
It is critical that MEC Mshengu and his Department take a proactive stance during these unprecedented times to ensure that schools are properly equipped when learners return. There are many KZN schools without water supply and the 1 300 schools with pit latrines are potentially lethal for the spread of any illness, let alone a virus with the magnitude to spread like Covid-19. Some of these schools are little more than cess pits when it comes to hygiene and it is critical that learners are not brought back into such environments.
The upcoming extended recess presents the DoE with the perfect opportunity to assess – through its DoE circuit and district offices – infrastructure including toilets and water supply at KZN’s schools. From there, the MEC and his Department must take urgent steps to implement the DA’s recommendations of last week which include the installation of jojo tanks and interaction with municipalities to ensure piped water is available This requires the urgent re-prioritisation of funding.
A further recommendation by the DA last week was the urgent distribution of a pamphlet to KZN’s learners regarding hygiene measures. Regrettably, the MEC and his Department have ‘missed the boat’ in this regard, with the closure of schools. This was a golden opportunity to reach millions of households via the province’s 2.8million learners. The DoE now needs to look at other methods of maintaining awareness in a bid to ensure that they do their bit in trying to contain the spread of this virus. The DA recommends the use of an SMS campaign for both parents and learners. The DoE already has most contact details on their system.
It is essential that MEC Mshengu and his Department look to play a proactive role during this unplanned recess. There is still much they can do to limit the spread of Covid-19. The DA remains committed to working with government in any way possible to limit the spread of this virus. This is a time for all of us to work together to overcome this trying time.