Minister out of touch with schools’ readiness

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga.
Matric marks Basic education minister Angie Motshekga.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/The Sunday Times

It was clear towards the end of May already that not all schools would be ready to accept pupils and teachers from Monday.

Many had spoken out about not having received the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and that schools had not been sanitised.

But instead of making a decision by Friday, or even Saturday afternoon, basic education minister Angie Motshekga stubbornly pushed through.

It was only minutes before her scheduled 6pm briefing to the nation that her department announced the address had been postponed and that schools would now reopen on June 8.

By then, some parents had already transported their children to boarding schools.

Some who may have missed the news turned up at schools around the country on Monday morning.

It was chaotic and demonstrated a lack of respect for pupils, parents and the teaching staff.

But then again, it is not all that surprising as the basic education department is notoriously disorganised — we see it at the start of every school year.

On Monday, Motshekga explained that the reopening of schools was postponed at the 11th hour because some were not ready to operate.

The minister had engaged heads of department, teachers unions, school governing bodies, NGOs and organisations working with children with special needs.

“I had to receive reports from different provinces. Based on those reports, it was clear the sector was at different stages of readiness,” she said.

PPE needs to be delivered to all schools, and the training of screening staff at schools will have to take place this week.

It appears to be a rush against the clock so that schools can reopen next Monday for grades seven and 12.

The department’s seemingly haphazard handling of this saga cannot simply be written off as yet another mishap by Motshekga and her team.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, which means the utmost care must be taken to ensure the schools are prepared to accept pupils.

The bare minimum is not good enough.

The teachers unions were spot on in summing up the crux of the problem.

“ ... the department of basic education is obsessed with dates and ignoring the evidence of provincial readiness,” they said in a statement.

The wellbeing of pupils and staff must take precedence over any rush to meet deadlines, or worse, to prove a point.

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