Contradicting messages about the provision of masks to schools are adding to what is already an almost impossible situation. In the presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the reopening of schools the Department of Basic Education indicated that masks will only be provided to quintile 1-4 schools.
“In our initial meetings with the Department it was indicated that schools do not have to procure any sanitation or hygiene equipment and that sanitation packages will be provided to all schools irrespective of quintiles. In a meeting on Sunday (26 April 2020) between the Minister of Basic Education and school governing body organisations the Minister indicated that quintile 4 and 5 schools will receive masks as a once-off,” says Mr Paul Colditz, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS).
Colditz says he has already sent a letter to the Department of Basic Education to request that the decision be withdrawn. “Many learners in quintile 5 schools are from poor families and their parents are exempted from paying schools fees. In addition, many of these schools have had to retrench staff employed by the SGB because they find themselves in dire financial straits.”
Colditz says decisions like these simply serve to strengthen divisions in our communities and education system. FEDSAS therefore requests urgent answers from the Department on the following questions:
- Will it be expected of schools and parents to provide protective equipment (including masks) to employees of the Department of Basic Education and if so, on what justifiable basis?
- Does the Department categorise the lives, safety and well-being of teachers, learners and other non-teaching staff in schools also in quintiles and if so on what conceivable rational and justifiable basis?
Colditz says FEDSAS has done everything possible to support the Department in their strategy for reopening of schools. “We now want confirmation from the Department that all schools, learners and staff members will be treated equally and with the same measure of respect for their safety and well-being.”