Many of the Eastern Cape's 5 000 schools are not ready to reopen on Monday because they have not received adequate personal protective equipment, the provincial chairperson of the National Association of School Governing Bodies said on Friday.
This comes as pressure mounts on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to reconsider her decision to reopen the schools over fears related to education centres' readiness to deal with the rapid spread of Covid-19.
The South African Human Rights Commission also announced in a press statement on Thursday that it had written to Motshekga to persuade her to reconsider her decision.
Eastern Cape chairperson of the National Association of SGBs, Mongameli Peter, said thousands of schools in Nelson Mandela Bay, in the Karoo district up to the former Transkei, are without protective kits.
"Many schools in and around Uitenage, Butterworth and in former Transkei have no PPEs. I don't agree with children going back to school because we are not happy about the safety measures. No schools have been sanitised and received protective equipment in and around Cradock as well. No consultation between the SGB and principals about the hiring of people to assist at schools to help kids."
Motshekga announced a fortnight ago that the schools, which were closed when the president announced a hard lockdown in March, would reopen in a phased manner during the more relaxed Level 3 lockdown.
Outlining her strategy, she said pupils in grades 12 and 7 would go back first on 1 June.
But many are rejecting this idea.
In light of Eastern Cape schools' state of readiness and the onset of a cold winter, Peter proposed August as a better date for pupils to return.
We ask you to keep your child at home until further notice
One of the schools that has not received PPEs is West Bank Secondary School in King William's Town.
West Bank Secondary school principal Branwell Hill announced in a letter to parents on the school's Facebook page on Thursday night that pupils in grades 7 and 12 must remain at home.
Hill said: "After careful consultation with management, the following conclusion regarding the reopening of school was reached: The Grade 7 and 12 learners will NOT return to school on Monday (1 June 2020), due to the non-delivery of learner personal protective equipment."The statement further read: "The department's Covid-19 regulation is that the schools that haven't received the learner PPE wouldn't be allowed to receive learners."Consequently, we ask you to keep your child in Grade 7 and in Grade 12 at home until further notice."
SAHRC requests different date
The South African Human Rights Commission on Thursday said it had written to Motshekga to persuade her to reconsider her decision.
SAHRC spokesperson Gushwell Brooks said the commission conducted independent monitoring of schools for readiness in all nine provinces.
He said the commission also consulted various stakeholders, including teachers' unions and school governing bodies before deciding that it would not support the reopening.
He said: "Feedback from our provincial offices is that many schools have not achieved the required readiness to receive learners. Most observations from our provincial offices highlight the shortage or inadequacy of water and sanitation as well as personal protective equipment. Some even reported that the necessary training was still outstanding. Other observations made during monitoring in provinces are that the levels of readiness for many rural schools are significantly low. The monitoring continues," said Brooks.
"Whilst the commission supports the opening of schools as soon as possible in order to give effect to the rights of learners to education - a matter of great national importance to our country in many aspects - it believes that this should be done in tandem with reasonable and adequate measures and efforts to safeguard the right to health of learners and educators.
"It is thus important that necessary minimum conditions that need to be met for the reopening of schools, such as access to adequate clean water and sanitation, social distancing, the availability of personal protective equipment, training and the general sanitisation of schools, are met," Brooks said in the statement.
Eastern Cape education MEC Fundile Gade's spokesperson, Vuyiseka Mboxela, said Gade would brief the media on Friday at 13:00 about schools' readiness.