High Court turns down urgent application to close schools
The Gauteng High Court Pretoria turned down an urgent application by a teachers’ union that all schools in the country should remain closed for now. Judge Nana Makhubele found the application launched by the Educators Union of South Africa not to be urgent and it was flawed in some aspects.
The judge did not pronounce on the merits of the application – on whether schools were ready to reopen or not – which leaves the door open for Mmusi Maimane and his movement,One South Africa, to still head to court next week.
He will ask for an order that the government’s decision to reopen the schools be declared invalid and unlawful. He is asking that such a declaration be suspended for 60 days during which time the government must submit a plan to ensure the safety of pupils in schools. Maimane is asking the court or an independent body supervise this plan.
The Educators Union of South Africa also voiced their fears in their now failed application that the government was not ready to reopen the schools. They said not all schools had safety measures in place, such as protective equipment and some even did not have running water, to try and combat Covid-19.
This, the union said, placed the lives of many pupils and educators in danger. The union’s spokesperson, Kabelo Mahlobogwane said they will not back down in their fight to protect the lives of teachers and pupils. We will soldier on,” he said. He questioned the fact that the judge did not find their application to be urgent.
“We believe that the fact that schools had reopened (for grades 7s and 12s) was what made our application more urgent as infections have already forced more than 90 schools to close across the country within two days,” he said. Trade union Solidarity, who had entered the proceedings as a friend of the court, welcomed the fact schools would remain open.
Its stance is that all schools across the country – government and private – who feel they are ready to adhere to all the safety regulations to protect pupils and staff from Covid-19, should be given the choice to open immediately. Solidarity’s chief executive Dirk Hermann said the ruling was a victory for pupils and teachers, as this promoted their access to education and the right to work. Hermann said the approach to close all schools if an equal level of readiness was not achieved at all schools, was unsustainable.
He said the schools’ governing bodies should decide whether their schools were ready to reopen as it had sufficient safety measures in place. Solidarity said the closing of schools indefinitely had a negative impact on the pupils and teachers and those schools who were ready to open their doors, should be allowed to do so.
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