The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) welcomes the announcement by Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, of gazetted changes to government’s original plan instructing all primary school learners to return to school on 2 August 2021.
The latest change makes provision for those schools that cannot ensure proper physical distancing and adherence to Covid-19 regulations to revert to the rotational time table where all learners do not have to be at school at the same time.
Last week, the DA expressed the view that not all schools in KZN were fit for the return of a full cohort of learners. This followed oversight inspections by the provincial Legislature within the province.
The following issues were observed by the DA. We do not believe they will change in the near future;
• A large number of schools in the Umlazi district remain without PPE – a fact confirmed by a district official. We found a similar situation within the King Cetshwayo district
• Further Covid-19 protocol challenges include no evidence of desk separators and many handwashing stations had no soap
• There was also no disinfectant whatsoever at Boom Street school or at Martin Nxumalo school in the Pietermaritzburg area
• Physical distancing between learners at primary schools visited is almost non-existent, with not enough classrooms as seen at a rural school in Amajuba. (view here) and;
• Some schools without working thermometers and who screeners claim that they have not been paid.
The government gazette outlines the process that may be used for schools to deviate from daily attendance. An application is to be made to the head of the provincial education department through district offices. MECs are then required to inform the Minister to ensure that there is concurrence or a further determination.
This means that here in KZN, Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, will have to tell the Minister why schools in our province cannot comply with a daily timetable for all primary school learners.
He will also have to provide a plan and timeline for daily attendance to ensure that this is achieved sooner rather than later. The MEC will also have to update the Minister on the progress of the plan on a two weekly interval.
The DA is not optimistic that KZN will achieve a return of all primary school learners until the end of the pandemic. This based on the MEC and his Department’s repeated admission that there is no money and that the filling of teacher vacancies under the current budgetary constraints will be almost impossible.
We further note the decision that other school activities such as inter-school events and inter-provincial sports may resume under strict Covid-19 protocols and without spectators. We welcome this move provided that there is strict adherence to regulations.
The DA in KZN remains fully committed to its oversight role of ensuring that our schools remain safe and that the MEC and Acting HOD are compliant with the recent Gazette notice. Proper accountability and adherence to the rule of law will ensure that South Africa will move towards a capable state, away from the current trajectory of a crumbling state.