Outrage as NW refuses to give cleaning goods to fee-paying schools
MEC tells governing bodies her department won’t help them and they must approach municipalities instead
The North West education department has come under fire for refusing to provide cleaning materials and detergents for the “deep cleansing” of wealthy schools.
North West education MEC Mmaphefo Matsemela informed school governing bodies in a letter dated May 8 that her department would only be providing cleaning materials to quintile 1-4 schools.
Quintile 1-3 schools are no-fee-paying schools, while quintile 4 and 5 schools are fee-paying, and are regarded as affluent.
The provincial education department’s controversial plan comes hot on the heels of a recent decision by the Eastern Cape education department to issue tablets to only those matric pupils attending quintile 1-3 schools.
Towards the end of last month, basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli told MPs the department would initially be providing two cloth masks to only quintile 1-4 pupils, but he was contradicted a day later by basic education minister Angie Motshekga, who said face masks would be provided to all pupils.
Meanwhile, Matsemela also informed governing bodies that they, as well as school principals, must approach municipalities and secure employee programme workers (EPWs) “for assistance in the cleansing and well-keeping of schools”, a move that was met with disbelief by the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas).
School governing bodies should ensure there is running water at school and, where there are challenges, communication in that regard should be directed to the department urgently.
She also stated governing bodies should be “central” in making sure classrooms, schools and surroundings are cleaned.
“School governing bodies should ensure there is running water at school, and where there are challenges, communication in that regard should be directed to the department urgently. ”
Commenting on the North West education department’s plan to provide cleaning materials to only quintile 1-4 schools, Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz, said provincial education departments were not speaking “with one voice”.
“The minister has said that departments must provide all schools with the same basic hygiene package.”
He said once schools reopened, cleaning and sanitisation would become important and that the materials for that must be supplied by the departments.
“ Provincial education departments should align their programmes with the directive from the minister.”
Colditz laughed off the suggestion by Matsemela that governing bodies should approach municipalities to get employee programme workers (EPWs) to help clean schools.
“That is the responsibility of the department as education is a national and provincial competency. Municipalities have no obligations constitutionally regarding education at schools.”
Parents of quintile 5 pupils are also severely affected by the lockdown and many of them have become unemployed.
He agreed that while the overall responsibility of the governing body was to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children, “it does not mean they have to physically clean schools”.
“They have an oversight role to play to make sure that the cleaning at their particular school has been done or is being done.”
Matakanye Matakanye, general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies (Nasgb), said all schools should be provided with cleaning materials.
“Parents of quintile 5 pupils are also severely affected by the lockdown, and many of them have become unemployed.’’
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said the responsibility of the cleaning of schools did not lie with governing bodies but had to be done by experts.
“It’s ridiculous and a ‘cop-out’ on the side of the department [North West] to try to foist this on governing bodies.”
A concerned community member from Stilfontein in North West recently wrote to Naptosa about the appalling conditions at Are Ipeleng Primary School in the township of Khuma.
The community member wrote: “This school is for the last four years without water. There is raw sewerage from home spilling out around the school, and it is infested by rats, flies and fleas.”
The community member said the school should not be reopened. “The classes are small and overcrowded, and there are not enough desks and chairs.’’
Motshekga is expected to inform the nation on Thursday about preparations for the reopening of schools.
Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said she would be providing final dates as well as detailed plans for the phased-in approach “to the possible reopening of schools”.