The IFP has today written to the Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise, to consider tabling an Urgent Debate of National Importance on the issue of the reopening of schools and the phasing-in of grades during our collective fight against the deadly spread of COVID-19.
We have requested that the Speaker make this consideration for Members of the National Assembly to debate the matter at its next available sitting, in terms of rule 130 (1).
We note with serious concern the continued phased-in approach to the reopening of schools by the Department of Basic Education as announced by Minister Angie Motshekga, with grades six and eleven preparing to return to schools throughout the country next week.
This decision to allow more learners at schools next week will also severely impact any efforts to maintain and uphold health standards in ensuring that social and physical distancing is practiced in classrooms and playgrounds in our schools.
Our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of the teachers, learners and their families, who are being placed at greater risk to be infected with COVID-19 at schools across the country. We must take a safety first approach.
Certainly this life and death scenario in which we are placing our learners and teachers on a daily basis warrants the urgent call for Parliament to debate and to dissect the rationale behind the reopening of our schools and the “final” decision on the matriculation examination scheduled for November/December this year.
At this point in time, it is unfathomable how UMALUSI is going to gauge the standards for the Matriculation results given the myriad of adverse factors which place thousands, if not millions of learners at a grave disadvantage when going into this exam period during a global pandemic.
This begs the question: Are we now deciding to place unqualified matriculants at the doorsteps of institutions of higher learning?
Why would it be impossible for the Class of 2020 to write their final examination in either January, February or even March of 2021 – as learners would have the opportunity to be better prepared, supported academically and can flourish in a learning environment which is conducive for a more safe, healthy teaching and learning experience?
We simply cannot afford to run a parallel education system in an already deeply unequal society. The journey of the black rural school child cannot be disregarded in this way, because of the lack of innovation by the Department of Basic Education (compounded by its failure to fulfill its mandate) to cushion this blow the sector has taken.
The already high number of COVID-19 infections for both learners and teachers at our schools with just Grades seven and twelve having returned to school surely suggests that the decision to reopen and phase-in grades at schools is a bad idea and needs to be reconsidered.
Siphosethu Ngcobo MP
IFP Secretary General & Spokesperson on Basic & Higher Education
082 902 4508