Pretoria – Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is faced with the daunting task of finding an amicable solution to normal schooling following conflicting views by stakeholders on the future of schooling due to the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.
Motshekga was this week consulting stakeholders in education on whether schools should remain open with some of the interested parties expressing mixed opinions on the matter.
The SA Human Rights Commission was the latest to add its voice in support of schools to open and for government to increase its provision of health safety measures to offset the virus which has now claimed thousands of lives.
However, Motshekga was likely to face hostile teachers’ unions on Friday in her last bid to gauge their opinion.
Unions remain adamant that schools should be shut until the virus has subsided. Motshekga had initially opposed and even threatened legal action against the union.
On Thursday, however, it was not clear whether Motshekga would back off after President Cyril Ramaphosa weighed in on the matter and indicated that the National Coronavirus Command Council was likely to consider the World Health Organization’s views that schools should not be reopened when communities continued to be affected by the virus.
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union also made a similar call this week urging all stakeholders to avoid using education as a platform to gain cheap political points.
The situation was compounded this week when Motshekga revealed that more than 16000 teachers wouldn’t be able to resume teaching as they had comorbidities.
Motshekga made these revelations in her parliamentary answers to questions from DA MP and spokesperson on basic education Nomsa Marchesi.
Marchesi had asked the minister to give details of teachers who have comorbidities.
In her reply, Motshekga said as of last month 16168 teachers had declared comorbidities. She said the process of applications was ongoing and the numbers were not final.
She also said substitute teachers would be provided where there was a greater need saying it depended on the nature of work a teacher working from home was expected to do.
The DA, however, has expressed doubts about this, saying it was not clear at this point whether there were enough substitute teachers to assist affected schools.
“The DA has engaged with a number of teachers over the past weeks who have reported they are currently under immense pressure due to the increased tasks they have to perform per day,” Marchesi said.