Today is the first day of the third term for South African schools with learners heading back after a break overshadowed by level 4 lockdown.
This applies to schools in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal as well, including the 190 which were affected by the outbreaks of violence we saw. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has said that they are making provisions to support these schools and that majority of the schools are still usable.
For this week, primary schools will have the rotational timetable in place then from 2 August, a full capacity return will be in place. High schools will however keep adhering to the rotational timetable.
With learners having lost over 50% of their learning time since last year, South African Federation of Trade Unions' (SAFTU) spokesperson, Trevor Shaku, said that there is a need for schools to reopen but that the department hasn't delivered when it comes to promises on mobile classrooms and resources.
The readiness is really questionable.
Shaku says the return to 100% attendance is not in line with what is available and that they are concerned about overcrowding and the possibility of spreading Covid-19.
The union wants children to be part of the basic education vaccine rollout but acknowledges that government is not planning to vaccinate learners. Government plans to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating everyone over 18 which Shaku says excludes young people.
Noncedo Madubedube, Equal Education's general secretary, said that they want schools to reopen but for this to be done safely. Equal Education, along with SAFTU, brought up the issue of infrastructure.
Last year, DBE promised that they would be setting up mobile classrooms to ensure that there is no overcrowding in schools but is said to not have delivered on these promises. This is viewed as a non-negotiable by organisations and unions.
"Learners that are organised through Equal Education have been fighting for adequate and safe school infrastructure since 2010 and we've got a law propagated that hasn't been implemented or rolled out adequately by the DBE," said Madubedube.
We still have schools that don't have water security. We still have schools with unsafe and inadequate sanitation. These conditions go against what it means to go back to school safely and justly during this Covid period.
They are therefore calling for the department to prioritise this.
Schools are also seen juggling money for other schools needs and not being able to afford personal protective equipment (PPE) for learners.