Eastern Cape Education MEC, Fundile Gade, is setting schools in the province up for failure, with the announcement today that schools will have to procure their own personal protective equipment (PPE) in the first term.
It is a callous and heartless decision that throws the poor to the Covid-19 wolves. This is what happens when the Department caves in to tendepreneurs, paying vastly inflated prices for PPE.
We have already lost valuable academic time, to give the Department extra time to prepare schools to open safely, and now they are passing the buck. It is clear that they have not learnt anything from their numerous mistakes last year.
The Department is setting these schools up for failure and placing our children’s lives at risk in the process.
We have already seen the devastating effect of insufficient and inadequate PPE last year, when 204 learners were infected with Covid-19 at the Makauna Senior Secondary School in KwaBhaca, (formerly Mount Frere).
Where does the MEC expect schools to get the funding do this?
Fee-paying schools have seen a significant drop off in revenue collected through school fees as a result of the various lockdowns, and parents losing their jobs. They are battling to find funds to maintain teachers and will be hard pressed to secure additional funds for PPE.
No-Fee schools are expected to pay for the PPE from their maintenance budget, a budget that in most instances is barely adequate to keep the lights on, let alone address the magnitude of maintenance backlogs they are facing.
Earlier this week, it was announced that primary schools will be allowed to let all learners attend from the day that schools reopen on 15 February.
By the Department’s own admission, of the 5,121 schools in the province, 2,841 have social distancing challenges in their classrooms when all learners are present.
Now these same schools, many of which are in rural areas with limited resources, are expected to procure adequate PPE.
I will be writing to the Education Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Mpumelelo Saziwa, to request that he call an urgent sitting, and summons the Department to explain exactly how they expect schools to secure their own PPE for the first term.
In a caring and capable state, the Department would have already identified that PPE would be needed and procured the necessary supplies and ensured delivery while schools were closed.
A caring and capable state would have identified the need to address overcrowding at our schools, and would have plans in place to mitigate the risk to address this.