South Africa: Reopening Schools Is Inevitable, but the Department of Basic Education Must Carry It Out Smoothly


The social costs of keeping children out of school are piling up fast. But there is another price to pay if the process of reopening schools is rushed and poorly executed.

On Tuesday 12 May Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga briefed the nation about the department's plans to reopen schools. It should have been an appropriate platform to wholly address concerns about the readiness of schools to reopen while the full might of the virus is yet to be felt.

It's probably safe to say it was this week's most sought-after briefing considering the public was on tenterhooks for weeks about school reopening dates, but numerous questions were left unanswered, and where there was an attempt, granular detail was lacking and not reassuring.

Many of these concerns have to do with the department's capacity to ensure that the essential "non-negotiables" like PPE, water and sanitation facilities and other hygiene-related equipment are procured and delivered on time. This task has been left up to the provincial departments.

"Our provinces lack the capacity and zeal and they have gotten away with it for a long time," said Basil Manuel, the executive director of the National Professional Teachers' Union of SA (Naptosa).


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