Show us that schools are safe to re-open

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Show us that schools are safe to re-open
Show us that schools are safe to re-open
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The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected life as we know it, including education. For weeks schools in Mzansi have been closed because of the country-wide lockdown. But the role of schools is not only education, they are also a critical source of social support, like the school nutrition programme.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) gradually reopened schools, starting with grade 7 and grade 12 in June [1]. Yet many of our schools lack the necessary infrastructure and additional resources to handle the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic [2]. During a discussion with various learners [3], Lawrence Manaka, a learner from Gauteng, asked “Many classes are overcrowded...the government is promising mobile classes. This is unrealistic and will take time...also sanitation...are they going to be able to provide sanitisers and masks?”.

The Department of Basic Education has confirmed that at least 775 schools have been affected by Covid-19 since reopening to grade 7 and 12 pupils on 8 June [4]. According to the department, 523 pupils and 1,169 staff members are infected with Covid-19.[5]

So much about the coronavirus is still unknown, which added to concerns about the inadequate infrastructure at many schools [6] rightfully has learners and caregivers very concerned. The safety of learners, teachers, care-givers and communities depends on the DBE being transparent with all affected parties to ensure that safety is prioritised at all times. 

Dear Minister Angie Motshekga,

We, the undersigned, demand that the best interests of learners, teachers and caregivers are guiding the department’s plans. This will require the following measures are put in place prior to the reopening of schools, to ensure the full confidence and effective monitoring by all affected parties:

  • DBE must publicly make available all information informing the department’s plans to re-open schools;
  • Ensure that detailed plans to reopen schools are made public, with accessible mechanisms for engagement from learners, caregivers and teachers themselves and
  • Given that only two provinces are reportedly 'ready', DBE must disclose budgets and time-bound information about what is being done to support other provinces to meet the department's non-negotiables.


[2] Back to school: Only Gauteng and Western Cape ready to reopen - report, News 24 May 2020


[4] Next phase of South Africa’s school plan to forge ahead – despite rising Covid-19 cases among teachers and pupils, BusinessTech, June 2020


[6] Almost 4000 pit latrines in SA's schools, zero target set 'within the next 3 years', Kamva Somdyala for News24, March 2019


Will you sign?

The Department of Basic Education must be transparent with their plans to re-open schools, and engage learners, caregivers, teachers and communities to ensure confidence that safety is being prioritised.