COSAS shuts down schools in Alexandra

“Pure criminality” says Gauteng Education Department

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Police stood outside East Bank Secondary School as members of the Congress of South African Students called for all schools to close. Photo: Lwazi Nongauza

Members of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) have shut down five high schools and eight primary schools in Alexandra Township. The organisation says it is to save learners from being infected with the coronavirus.

Alexandra COSAS leader Mpumelelo Maringa said this followed increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the area. “There are several schools that have confirmed cases. We can’t risk learners’ lives by sending them to school. As COSAS we are declaring a total shutdown of all schools including primary schools.”

“We advise all learners to stay away from schools and parents not to send their children to schools starting from Monday until further notice,” said Maringa.

COSAS claimed its actions were endorsed by all parents, by teachers’ unions and by the Gauteng Education Department. But Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona denied this, labelling the action as “pure criminality that should be discouraged”.

“There were several meetings held with all stakeholders in Alexandra to avert the threat by COSAS from closing down the schools but unfortunately there was no agreement. As a result, COSAS, supported by SADTU [SA Democratic Teachers’ Union] , NEHAWU [National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union], COSATU, and NSGB [National Schools Governing Body Association], continued to disrupt schools.”

“We will be meeting tomorrow [Wednesday] to find an amicable solution,” said Mabona.

He said some Alexandra schools had already been closed, not by COSAS, but because of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

When GroundUp visited the area on Monday most schools were closed. Several security guards at the schools told GroundUp COSAS had “instructed” the schools to close.

East Bank Secondary School was open but learners were sitting outside. There were police cars outside the school. The school principal refused to comment, referring us to School Governing Body member Kenneth Vickerman who said he was in full support of the closure.

“On one side the government is digging graves and on the other they are forcing us to take our kids to school. We know that those graves are for us the poor and our children. As a parent, once again I want to repeat that I pledge my full support to COSAS and I think all parents should do the same,” said Vickerman.

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