Most Eastern Cape schools ready to begin teaching

Education MEC Fundile Gade. Image: SINO MAJANGAZA
Most schools in the Eastern Cape are masked up and ready to begin teaching on Monday, but there remain some that lack the necessary equipment and ablution facilities and may struggle to reopen.

DispatchLIVE spoke to representatives from a number of schools in East London, King William’s Town, Mdantsane, Butterworth, Mthatha, Nqeleni, Elliotdale and Dutywa.

While many said it was all systems go, others were awaiting PPE and water tank deliveries while some said the PPE they had received was substandard.

Some schools also said they were waiting to hear about the revised curriculum for pupils.

Education MEC Fundile Gade was upbeat, saying the department was “as ready as possible” to open schools to grades seven and 12 on Monday.

Gade said 80-90% of PPE had been delivered to schools in the province’s 12 districts, with the exception of Amathole east, which had received less than half its equipment.

Gade admitted that the PPE delivery process had not been smooth sailing.

Gade said he had met with business leaders of SMMEs in the OR Tambo district who had derailed PPE deliveries in the area last week to demand that government use local business to supply PPE and water tanks.

“We agreed that the process must unfold, and as such the PPE were starting to be delivered in the afternoon on Wednesday in OR Tambo.

“OR Tambo now is among the districts that are pitching up close to 80% in relation to the delivery of PPE,” Gade said.

The MEC said the latest report from Rand Water, issued on Thursday, showed the water utility had delivered 669 of the 756 water tanks meant for schools.

“Rand water should be delivering 60 tanks today [Friday] and 29 tanks on Saturday across the province,” Gade said.

Schools which did not have adequate ablution facilities and infrastructure would remain on level 5 and not open.

He said pupils attending those schools would be sent to neighbouring schools which “are not risky, in terms of infrastructure”.

“The districts have made their own submissions to the main office for assessments and profiling of those schools and individual learners,” Gade said.

He said the construction of ablution facilities at such schools had been halted due to the lockdown, but would resume under level 3 to combat the “perpetual history of the use of pit toilets”.

Ngqatyana Junior Secondary School principal Wandile Ngceba said they had received everything from PPE to a revised curriculum.

He said he was confident they would be ready.

“We urge parents to send their children to school so we can start teaching.”

But Manduluka Senior Primary School principal Eric Mbazi said he was convinced that Monday was out of the question.

He said they had been told the masks would arrive only on Saturday, though they had received sanitisers and germ cleaners.

“The problem is that we don’t have anything to spray [classes] with,” he said, revealing they were also awaiting a water tank.

Mdabuka Senior Primary School principal Siphokazi Mdeyide said they were still awaiting the delivery of masks for pupils and had been informed these would arrive on Saturday.

The school had also not received a revised curriculum from education authorities.

He said water was not a problem as the school had enough tanks that had been filled by recent rain.

DZ Dumezweni Senior Secondary SGB chair Moses Ngcame said the only PPE that had been delivered was for teachers.

None of the staff had been trained on how to comply with Covid-19 regulations and the classrooms had not been fumigated.

“The way I see it, it’s only two days left until Monday. It tells you the school is not ready.

“We can’t send our children to school until everything has been sorted out, but I don’t know when that will be.”

Ngqeleni Senior Secondary SGB chair Mvuyo Tshayisa also said only PPE meant for teachers had been delivered by lunchtime on Friday.

He said he personally believed the school would not be ready to reopen on Monday.

“If it were up to me, I would delay the reopening of schools,” he said.

 “I can say that the school is ready to open on Monday to accept pupils back to school. We do have supply of PPE and the school has been sanitised,” Van der Westhuizen said.

Cambridge High School, on their Facebook page, indicated how prepared they were by demonstrating the procedures they would adhere to for ensuring the safety of pupils.

In the video, pupils’ temperatures were checked when entering the premises, and pupils could choose whether to wear uniforms, school tracksuits or casual clothes.

The video demonstrated how screening questions would be asked and how pupils would be expected to answer honestly.

The post said hands would be sanitised before entering the classroom and that social distance would be maintained in classrooms.

In Mdantsane, the principal of Masixole High School, Thembeka Sotyifa, said they had received PPE, but this was insufficient for staff and pupils.

Aside from this problem, the school was ready to open.

“We are preparing for our grade 12 pupils; I might say we are 90% ready, because the premises are well cleaned and groomed.

“We had to use some of our finances to purchase some more PPEs; we have already measured the social distancing and put red tape to indicate spacing for the pupils,” Sotyifa said.

“We’re not ready to open yet. We must also still have a formal meeting with our chairperson to check on progress,” Zine Galeleki said.

In Butterworth, Vuluhlanga High School is almost ready, according to SGB chair Mabini Mnguphane.

“There is PPE and thermometers have arrived; the school has been sanitised. We are hopeful as we wait for the teachers’ PPE,” Mnguphane said.

Meanwhile outside King William’s Town, Gasela High School SGB treasurer Remington Madikane said they were almost ready to commence with studies.

“PPE has arrived, however, we are unhappy about the quality of the masks for the pupils. I can say that I don’t think we’re ready to open at the moment.

“I’m unsure about the curriculum as yet, we’re supposed to meet the teachers on Monday,” Madikane said.

Dale College Boys High School is ready to open with everything in place.

“We are well equipped with our PPE. In terms of our curriculum, we’ve been working closely with the boys through Google classroom and groups.

“We’re also working on e-learning programmes and how to do things,” SGB member Royden Kennedy said.

Maimane said earlier this week the One South Africa movement had asked the apex court to play a supervisory role in making sure every school was safe.

“This is not a question of whether some schools are ready and others are not. It is about the constitutionality of the fact that every child is guaranteed an education, every child has a right to life, and that ultimately the rights of the child are paramount.”

Maimane last week called on government to only reopen schools in about three months’ time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the Constitutional Court said it had considered the application for direct access to the court on an urgent basis.

“It has concluded that [One South Africa Movement] has not made out a case for direct access and thus the application should be dismissed as it is not in the interests of justice to hear it at this stage.”

The court said it had decided not to award costs. — Additional reporting by Ernest Mabuza  

By Gugu Phandle, Sikho Ntshobane, Sivenathi Gosa and Amanda Nano

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