South Africa: CEM Slams Attempts to Disrupt Schooling

The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has noted with disappointment ongoing sporadic attempts by political and civic organisations to disrupt learning at some schools around the country.

These organisations, the CEM said, have threatened teachers and learners, while others have gone to court and failed to stop schools reopening, and now are intent on resorting to threats and disruptions to achieve their intended goals.

The CEM appealed to all aggrieved political and civic organisations to rather engage with their political counterparts and authorities through official platforms.

"These platforms are appropriate avenues to register their concerns and complaints and not our centres of learning and development. The unfolding political ballgame does not belong in schools," the CEM said in a statement.

Led by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the CEM this morning held a meeting to discuss developments recorded since the second group of learners returned to school around the country on Monday.

The CEM said schooling is indeed resuming with good progress, as learners were received well and many schools have made a concerted effort to prepare adequate sanitation, health and safety measures to welcome learners back.

The CEM said it was regrettable that leaders would choose schools as "a theatre of political posturing and muscle-flashing", while the Department of Basic Education is working on creating a safe environment for learning and teaching under COVID-19.

"Failure to desist from these regrettable acts will leave us no choice but to exercise our options, as per the dictates of the South African Schools Act (no. 84 of 1996), to make sure we protect our schools, educators, learners and the rights and interests of parents, who wish to take their children back to school," said Motshekga.

The Minister said some of the organisations had lost in court and are now resorting to disruptive behaviour.

"We are disappointed and dismayed that these organisations have neglected to recognise the efforts of the department in providing alternatives for parents who, out of well-founded anxiety and fear, wish not to return their children to school.

"Some parents wish not to return their children to school because children have comorbidities and this is a fact well understood and embraced by the department.

"For these parents, we've made provision, as allowed by the South African Schools Act for Home Education. This option is available and can be accessed by applying at Provincial Education Departments," the Minister said.

The CEM urges all those aggrieved not to interfere with the rights of those parents wishing to see their children going to school.

The CEM has not ruled out the possibility of going to court to seek protection from those intent on obstructing schooling.

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