Minister Angie Motshekga has failed to publish regulations on the ill-conceived announcement on Thursday that schools will close for four weeks.
Thus the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has once again plunged the education system into disarray. While SADTU and its junior wing, COSAS, mutter ominously about how they intend to make sure private schools are also closed, and that schools are kept closed for longer than four weeks, the legal status of the instruction by the President that public schools should be closed has not been clarified.
This stands in stark contrast to the re-implementation of the liquor ban on 12 July 2020, when the regulations were published an hour after the President’s announcement.
While the Democratic Alliance (DA) does not support the closure of schools as an effective strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we are clear that once this announcement had been made, the regulations which give it a formal framework needed to be urgently published. The word of the President is not law, and technically schools should not have closed today as there is no legal requirement for them to do so.
Without these regulations, schools are in limbo. They do not have certainty as to when, for how long, and for which Grades, the schools should be closed. The uncertainty can only add to the general anxiety already plaguing the sector. This, combined with the ominous flexing of muscles by SADTU, means that the sector as a whole is being treated in a cavalier and unprofessional manner. This will have a domino effect on the quality of education available to learners as well as the job security of parents who cannot return to work.
This is exactly the kind of mess that unfolds when the Cabinet bases its decisions on the whims of unions and not on the advice of scientists and experts.
The DBE’s failure to publish comprehensive and rational regulations is a slap in the face of the millions of children, parents and teachers who have now been seriously affected by schools closing. The continued stringing along of schools, teachers and learners is indicative of the arrogance displayed by the ANC government since the start of the lockdown.