The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) says not all of SA’s schools are ready to receive pupils. Naptosa together with four other teacher unions conducted two surveys in January and February to establish the readiness of schools in SA.
“One of the obvious things is that complete readiness is elusive. The unions as a collective have done two surveys, one on January 18 and one on February 9, which show a marked difference,” said Basil Manuel, head of Naptosa.
“It shows much more readiness by the 9th. However there are still large gaps. There are some schools that are distinctly not ready. This is quite irritating because we all know what schools need to become health and safety ready in terms of a variety things. But when we have provinces, notably the Eastern Cape, which has indicated that it does not have money and that the schools will have to use from their norms and standards allocations or their savings, it makes a mockery of this,” said Manuel.
Manuel said it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the workspace is safe and to ensure the children are safe.
“If you use norms and standards money, you are simply shifting the problem. Schools will use it because they need to get ready, we all want our children back at school,” he added.
Despite KwaZulu-Natal premier, Sihle Zikalala declaring two weeks ago that the province’s schools were ready to open, Manuel said schools there were “lagging behind”, along with North West and Limpopo. He also said that there is some positivity because some provinces have really done well. Manuel said the union was not only concerned about the physical readiness and the personal protective equipment.
“We are worried about the mental health of our teachers, our education workers, our FET college lecturers. They are all carrying a huge burden of having to shoulder all the grief of the broader community when the children return. The only counsellor the children know is the teacher,” said Manuel.
The union was also concerned about the reduced number of leave days teachers had with the amended school calendar for 2021.
“The new school calendar does not consider how much time teachers have been at school already, which give them a total of 19 days leave for the year. This will mean we will see more teachers succumbing to burnout to simply just being stressed and having anxiety. It is time the department sees that the most valuable resource is the human resource. While we welcome the return to school we are concerned that all schools are not at the same level of readiness,” said Manuel.