“Illegal strike” says department as teachers down tools at Kraaifontein school

Teachers say they are fed up with working conditions under Covid-19

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Photo of a school

About 35 teachers, who teach about 700 grade 11 and 12 learners, have downed tools since Wednesday at Bloekombos High School in Kraaifontein. Photo: Vincent Lali

About 35 teachers, who teach about 700 grade 11 and 12 learners, have downed tools since Wednesday at Bloekombos High School in Kraaifontein. The teachers come to school, but they don’t work. The Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) describes it as an “illegal strike”.

The teachers say they are fed-up. Buhlebekhaya Buso, a teacher and member of the school governing body (SGB), says that with classes of between 30 and 33 learners they battle to follow Covid-19 regulations. “We can’t keep desks 1.5 metres apart,” he says.

He said teachers lacked information about social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitising and were therefore not in a position to adequately inform the learners.

He said teachers want a Covid-19 committee “to ensure that learners and teachers sanitise, keep social distance and wear masks”.

Currently, no one ensures that each classroom has sanitiser, that desks are cleaned after school, and that learners maintain social distance.

Teacher Vuyo Duna complained about being expected to screen learners and help them sanitise their hands. He said the WCED should hire teacher assistants to help “with the screening of learners and recording of their temperatures”.

Teachers also complain about the absence of computers, photocopiers and printers to do admin work. Vuyo Duna said they stand in line or huddle together around one computer to punch in learners’ marks.

“We are going to infect each other,” he said. “Learners have been sitting at home for two months, so now we struggle to photocopy books and give them printouts to help them catch up.”

The teachers also want better security as the school has had burglaries and teaching equipment has been damaged.

They also want the WCED to fill vacant posts. The school needs a permanent secretary, HOD and a deputy secretary.

Ayakhe Mziki, a Grade 12 learner, said, “The teachers must sort out their issues with the principal and the department. We are worried about failing.”

Asahlume Mguli, also in Grade 12, said, “We are already behind with our school work because of the lockdown, so we want our teachers to resume teaching and help us catch up.”

Mguli said, “Classes are chaotic as learners make noise and prevent us from learning on our own because there are no teachers to monitor us.”

On Thursday, principal Ntombizandile Goniwe sent an SMS to parents saying that for Grade 11 learners “there will be no school. Learners return to school on Tuesday.”

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the situation was “currently being investigated by the District”.

The department is seeking legal advice on dealing with the “illegal strike action”, she said.

“We need to determine what the root cause is here as every school …. received the same guidelines and protocols on orientation on health and safety measures, screening and how to manage covid-19 in schools, as well as other documents and support for schools,” she said.

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Education

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