Motshekga says schools ready to re-open despite R300m damage from unrest
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Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education (DBE) says the sector is ready to reopen schools, depending on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation, as it reels from more than R300 million worth of damage from the unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
DBE Minister Angie Motshekga was speaking on Saturday in Pretoria on their state of readiness for the reopening of schools for the 2021 third term.
The minister said depending on confirmation from Ramaphosa during his national address on Sunday, the sector was ready for the reopening of schools today. Full school attendance in primary schools is also expected on August 2, however school management teams and support staff went back to work on Thursday.
“The sector continues to be committed, and at all times we are ready to maintain a balance between saving lives and livelihoods while fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” Motshekga said. The minister added that the department’s director-general would continue to convene one-onone meetings with the heads of the provincial education departments to ensure that there was a continuous sharing of experiences and people were working together.
Motshekga said the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education had made arrangements to ensure that all schools reopened today following the unrest in the province and Gauteng, which resulted in schools being looted, damaged and vandalised.
A total of 137 schools, three education centres and eight circuit offices were vandalised during the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.
“This is a serious setback, as the sector is already under pressure to provide appropriate facilities for the schooling system,” she said.
Since 2021 began, 43 Gauteng schools have been vandalised, with 11 cases reported after schools went on recess on July 2. Motshekga said 29 out of the 43 had been repaired, and work was under way to finish the others as soon as possible.
“It is saddening that most schools were left with serious structural damage, which would place the safety of pupils and teachers at risk,” Motshekga said. She added that although assessments had not been finalised, the estimated damage amounted to more than R300m.
During the media briefing, the minister further revealed that about 1 678 basic education employees had lost their lives to Covid-19 from March 2020 to February. In addition to the many education employees
who died, a head of department in the Eastern Cape, an MEC in the Northern Cape, and the president of the National Teachers Union, Sikhumbuzo Allen Thompson, lost their lives.
In terms of the sector’s vaccination programme, the department targeted 582 000 to be vaccinated before schools reopened. Motshekga said when the programme formally closed on July 14, the department had recorded 517 000 vaccinations, amounting to an 89% success rate.
“We still hope that educators not yet vaccinated will join the general population vaccination programmes that are under way,” the minister said.
Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre said with the reopening of schools, it was urgent that the government ensure that every school had the non-negotiables in place, such as personal protective equipment.