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SA rights commission urges education minister to reconsider re-opening schools on June 1

29 May 2020

Durban - The South African Human Rights Commission said it had written to basic education Angie Motshekga, suggesting that she reconsider the decision for schools to reopen on June 1 after shutting down in March due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
South African learning institutions have been closed since mid-March in a bid to avoid transmissions of the coronavirus, but the department of education has said classes will resume next week for grade 7 pupils who are set to progress to high school in 2021 and grade 12 learners due to write their final school exams later this year.
In a statement issued after tracking schools' readiness across all the country's nine provinces as well as consultations with teachers’ unions and school governing bodies, the SAHRC said while it supported the right of learners to education, there were still greater concerns which had not been addressed.
"Whilst the Commission supports the opening of schools as soon as possible in order to give effect to the rights of learners to education - a matter of great national importance to our country in many aspects – it believes that this should be done in tandem with reasonable and adequate measures and efforts to safeguard the right to health of learners and educators," it said.
“Feedback from our provincial offices is that many schools have not achieved the required readiness to receive learners. It is thus important that necessary minimum conditions that need to be met for the reopening of schools, such as access to adequate clean water and sanitation, social distancing, the availability of personal protective equipment, training and the general sanitization of schools, are met."

It said levels of readiness were significantly low among many rural schools, in particular.
Consultations with school governing bodies showed that as of May 28, about 3,500 schools still had no adequate water, the rights commission said.
“The commission has therefore communicated its concerns by letter to the minister and recommended that she reconsiders the date for reopening the schools,” it added.

Source: African News Agency

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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