The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has written to the Minister of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, recommending that she reconsiders 01 June 2020 as the date for the return of Grade 7 and 12 learners to school, this comes after the Commission did some independent monitoring of schools for readiness in all 9 provinces and after 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 but 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” said the Commission.
The SAHRC said the feedback from their provincial offices is that many schools have not achieved the required readiness to receive learners and observations from their provincial offices highlight the shortage or inadequacy of water and sanitation as well as personal protective equipment.
“Some even reported that the necessary training was still outstanding. Other observations made during monitoring in provinces are that the levels of readiness for many rural schools are significantly low. The monitoring continues. The Commission has received confirmation, through its provincial office in the Northern Cape, that the Northern Cape MEC for Education has announced that schools in the province will not be ready to reopen by 01 June 2020 and that they are looking at learners returning to school on 08 June 2020 instead,” 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” said the commission.
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.