Media statement – 2020-07-23 – GBF school closure

Posted by Nicki Schmidt
on 23rd Jul 2020

The Governing Body Foundation notes, with reservation, the decision announced today by the President concerning the closure of all public schools in the interest of the safety of learners and school staff.

Anthea Cereseto, CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, acknowledges that the Minister of Education had a difficult decision to make balancing Covid-19 infection risks to children and school staff if schools remained open with other risks to children and the impact on society if schools were closed.

We appreciate the fact that the Minister consulted widely with stakeholders, including the Governing Body Foundation, in order to assist her in preparing a report for the President and Cabinet. Pressure has been exerted by the teacher unions, supported by some civil society groupings, to close schools for the reasons they advanced, and they have prevailed. However, the Governing Body Foundation, along with other stakeholders such as the South African Council for Human Rights, education and economic researchers, and medical and scientific organisations, believed that children in South Africa would be better served if schools remained open, provided they could do so safely.

Covid-19 is going to be a factor in our lives for an extended period and therefore it is not helpful to halt children’s learning and the other benefits of their being at school until all danger, or even the peak (in itself a problematic concept), has passed.

Dr Cereseto stated that the Governing Body Foundation is concerned that insufficient detail has been provided and that only one day has been given for preparing for the closure. Our member schools have flooded us with questions which need to be answered within the next few hours, especially with regard to extending the school year into 2021 and management matters such as the utilisation of staff during the closure period.
It is imperative that the Department of Basic Education, provincial education departments, and the Department of Health use this period to fix the problems that have been identified by stakeholders. This standoff with the teacher unions could have been avoided if the responsible parties had acted more purposefully over the last four months, and indeed over the last years, where infrastructure is concerned.

Dr Cereseto said: “After this break, there can be no further delays in returning all grades to school. The inefficiencies and inconsistencies across the country must be dealt with. Officials must do their jobs competently and diligently. All education districts must be completely functional in order to provide the necessary support when it is needed. Telephones must be answered whether officials are in the office or working from home.”
The Governing Body Foundation will continue to support and advise its member schools as they care for the country’s most precious people – the next generation of South Africa. How will its youth remember their elders’ conduct over this Covid-19 crisis? There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela

** End of statement**

Dr Anthea Cereseto (Chief Executive Officer) – 061 091 2374 / 011 886 0031 / 082 610 5756