SAFTU says: No teaching and learning during Covid-19/lockdown!

Mobilise for a nationwide stay-away and general strike!

The South Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) fully supports all the unions organising the educators who have unanimously expressed anger that the government, in particular the Minister of Basic Education, are rushing to open schools without first ensuring that the schools are safe. SAFTU salutes the unity demonstrated by the teachers’ organisations in the face of the government’s arrogant and careless attitude.

Covid-19 has turned into a class and race issue. The private and former Model C schools – the former whites-only schools that cater for the rich in society – may be ready to return. They generally have fewer numbers in the classes and therefore can use that space for social distancing. Most of these schools have children whose parents can afford to buy masks, gloves and sanitisers for them. They can afford to keep high hygiene standards, have water, ablution facilities, large playing fields, heated swimming pools and other infrastructure. Parents of these kids are more likely to have the same facilities at home and could test and their kids with their own thermometers.

The children of the black working class families attend schools from a completely different world, where the kids are crammed into overcrowded classrooms in which social distance is as impossible as in the overcrowded homes they come from – the apartheid matchbox houses, ‘RDP’ houses and shacks. Some of these schools still don’t have ablution facilities and no water; some even have pit toilets and no other infrastructure. These schools are the 91% of the dysfunctional schools pointed out by the drafters of the National Development Plan.

A report conducted by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in May 2011 shockingly revealed that over 3 500 schools in South Africa still did not have access to electricity, 900 did not have sanitation facilities and 2 400 were without water.

It is quite clear that under these conditions the kids of the black working class will not only infect each other, and their teachers and ancillary staff, but then move the virus back to their homes and the wider community.

But the political elites and the ruling class do not care. They are more likely to survive even when infected. But thousands of the poorest people who have all manner of underlying health problems including tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS and weak immune systems will become the victims of the coronavirus.

Parents and educators rightly fear that, like the health workers, they are going to be sent to the slaughterhouse.

SAFTU demands:

  • Testing of all teachers, learners, support staff and parents before schools are reopened and regular tests to be conducted thereafter
  • All those who are tested positive to be isolated at home, with the teachers and other staff on full pay
  • No victimisation of teachers who refuse to work before tests have been conducted or where schools do no meet necessary standards of hygiene and have insufficient PPE
  • Adequate supplies of PPE – masks, gloves and sanitisers – to be in place, and regularly replaced in all schools
  • Cleaning and disinfection of all institutions of learning and an end to pit toilets and mud schools
  • Employment of all unemployed teachers to help the struggling schools, universities and colleges
  • Scrapping of labour brokering and outsourcing of services
  • Free high-quality education at all levels
  • An end to the two-tier education system, in favour of a single education system not based on class, geographical and racial differentials, but one in which all schools enjoy the same infrastructure.
  • All private schools, private universities and private colleges to be nationalised and put under one education system for all South African learners and students
  • School governing bodies to be democratically elected by, and answerable to, parents, teachers, learners and local community structures.

We are calling all working-class communities, teachers, lecturers, learners, students, parents, trade unions, federations and civic organisations to join a nationwide general strike if the government continues to risk the lives of children, educators, support staff and poor communities in order to please the rich and powerful ruling class.

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