Skip work and you break the law, teach­ers warned

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - THAMI MAGUBANE thami.magubane@inl.co.za

KWAZULU-NATAL Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Kwazi Mshengu has taken a hard line against unions di­rect­ing their mem­bers not to re­port for duty to­day, say­ing teach­ers were em­ploy­ees of the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and fail­ure to re­port would be break­ing the law.

His state­ment comes as the de­part­ment faces off with unions as plans to restart the school cal­en­dar are thrown into fur­ther chaos.

Unions are adamant that schools are un­safe and teach­ers should stay away. How­ever, the de­part­ment said ev­ery­thing was in place for safe re­open­ing on June 1.

About 90 000 teach­ers from more than 6 000 schools across the prov­ince are ex­pected to re­turn to work to­day.

Mshengu would not dis­close how teach­ers would be sanc­tioned if they failed to re­port for duty.

“We are go­ing to con­tinue to en­gage with the unions in hopes of com­ing to an agree­ment, but we are stand­ing firm on our po­si­tion. We want to re­mind the teach­ers that they are em­ploy­ees of the de­part­ment, and since Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa has spo­ken, they would be break­ing the law if they fail to ar­rive for work,” he said.

“If the unions have iden­ti­fied a school that is not ready, there should be a dis­cus­sion about that school. It should not be that if there is one school that is not ready in one part of the prov­ince, ev­ery­one stays home.

“We are very com­fort­able with the work the gov­ern­ment has done. Our schools are ready. If there are any hic­cups, it will be with very few schools and those will be ad­dressed dur­ing the week­end,” added Mshengu.

He said they had done their ut­most to en­sure the safety of teach­ers and pupils at schools.

“We have pur­chased six months’ stock of per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment. We do not fore­see any chal­lenges un­less the stock is stolen.”

He said he un­der­stood teach­ers might be afraid: “We want to as­sure them the de­part­ment has taken ev­ery pre­cau­tion to keep them safe.”

He also urged par­ents to play their role in en­sur­ing that pupils were safe when out­side school.

“Par­ents should en­sure that chil­dren do not wan­der around the street and put them­selves at risk of get­ting the virus. We know there are pupils who drink and could catch the virus while drink­ing, and then claim they got it in schools.

“And there are teach­ers who do not re­spect them­selves who drink the whole week­end.

“When they catch the virus, they too will claim they were in­fected at schools,” he said.

In a joint state­ment from teacher unions, Sadtu, Natu, Naptosa, SAOU and PEU ad­vised their mem­bers not to re­port to schools to­day.

“Schools are not ready to re­ceive them un­der the Covid-19-re­lated pro­to­cols. We must be con­sis­tent; ed­u­ca­tion in this prov­ince will com­mence when all schools are ready to re­ceive pupils and teach­ers safely.”

The unions said they had con­ducted their re­search to de­ter­mine the state of readi­ness and what they found por­trayed a dis­turb­ing state of af­fairs con­trary to the de­part­ment’s claims.

“We do note that about 13 schools that were to be vis­ited by the lead­er­ship and man­age­ment of the de­part­ment were given al­most ev­ery­thing. Some are us­ing our schools to pop­u­larise them­selves more than im­prov­ing the con­di­tion of our schools,” said the state­ment.

Natu pres­i­dent Allen Thompson said yes­ter­day that the de­part­ment is­sued a cir­cu­lar de­tail­ing the ap­point­ment of the peo­ple who would be re­spon­si­ble for screen­ing at schools.

“If they are only ad­ver­tis­ing for the ap­point­ment now, it means there will be no one to screen teach­ers to­day.

“That per­son will still need to be trained.

“We do not want a re­peat of what we saw in the Western Cape where the de­part­ment dragged teach­ers kick­ing and scream­ing back to school, only for them to get in­fected,” he said.

The pres­i­dent of the Ed­u­ca­tors Union of South Africa, Scelo Bhengu, said: “We have called for test­ing of teach­ers and pupils be­fore they are brought back to­gether to school to make sure ev­ery­one in school is healthy.”

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