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Another teachers union calls for schools to be closed

Another teachers union, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), has called for schools to be closed until after the peak of the coronavirus, when the curve begins to flatten.  

In a statement on Tuesday evening, the executive director of Naptosa, Basil Manuel, said this resolution was taken at its national standing committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon. 

Naptosa is the second-biggest teachers union after the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu). On Tuesday afternoon Sadtu called for the closure of schools until after the Covid-19 peak. 

Manuel said the decision to call for the closure of schools was — in part — influenced by reflecting on the changing science in terms of the various guidelines, as well as the deteriorating mental health of teachers. 

The union noted that the World Health Organisation has advised that schools remain closed during the peak of the pandemic. 

Manuel added that, during his address on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa had said that we are approaching the storm of the virus. 

“We are thus calling on the minister … to close the schools until the curve flattens and the peak of the pandemic is over.” 

The teachers union, Manuel said, had earlier cautioned Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga about being fixated on the calendar, and suggested the department instead read the signs of the time. He said Naptosa had told Motshekga about teachers’ stress levels and the toll this time has taken — not only on their physical health, but also on their mental health. 

Naptosa said, however, that closing schools without a plan would be irresponsible and that this is the time to sit down and plan how to close the year — as well as to plan how learners can return to school when the curve flattens. 

The union said it will meet Motshekga on Wednesday, together with other teachers unions, and that it will table the resolution of its own meeting then. 

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said one of the reasons the union was calling for schools to be suspended was because it believes there has not been effective teaching and learning since the first grades returned in June. He said this was because of schools closing when there are positive cases, as well as high levels of absenteeism from learners whose parents have decided to keep them at home. The union made the resolution at its national executive committee meeting, which sat on Tuesday morning. 

In a statement on Tuesday, the basic education department said it had noted the resolution by Sadtu to close schools and that “the decision on whether schools will be closed or not will be taken by the cabinet”.

However, the department said it also needs to be noted that the closure of schools negatively affects poor learners, because they do not have access to online learning and teaching. 

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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