KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu says that it is all hands on deck to get schools up to standard for the return of pupils.
"This morning, we had a meeting with all the unions and associations of SGBs and I am happy to say we are now facing one direction, saying all of us must work to prepare our schools. We should not be bargaining with our schools. We should work towards all our schools being ready," he said on Monday.
Mshengu was speaking to media at the Insika High School in KwaMpumuza, just outside Pietermartizburg.
His comments come after unions stopped teachers from attending schools, saying the country was not ready for pupils and staff to return.
We are on the ground
Mshengu said committees had been set up to fast-track the readiness of schools in the province.
"We have established committees at circuit levels to reconcile different information that we had as the department and the unions. These committees will be verifying each and every school in terms of the checklist of the non-negotiables. The first report we are expecting is on Wednesday."
Mshengu said the committees were empowered to immediately assist schools that were not Covid-19 ready.
"We all agreed that these committees must not just make assessments of schools and convene meetings to discuss the state of readiness again. No. We want them, when they see that there are challenges, to make necessary interventions."
The committees, he said, would be made up of department officials, SGB representatives, as well as unions.
He added on the committees: "When they realise PPEs are not delivered in a school, they must not wait for a meeting on Wednesday to say there are no PPEs. They must make an immediate intervention to ask where the PPEs are and when will they be delivered."
What will KZN do if schools are not ready?
Mshengu said that, if some schools were not ready in time, they would not open.
"We are determined to make sure that all of our schools are ready, but where there is a school that is not ready, we will not open it. We will make sure it is ready before we open it."
He added that, if there were outbreaks of the virus in schools when pupils returned, schools would be shut down.
"In schools, if we register a case of infection, we follow the health protocols like in hospitals. If there is a case in school, we have to close the school and ensure it is disinfected thoroughly, and check the contacts of the person who was infected."
Mshengu also instructed principals that they had to attend school.
"Principals should always be in schools, even in those that are not ready. Principals are managers of schools and must work with us to prepare those schools. Even in those schools we consider not ready, we expect principals to be there."