I can’t guarantee that nobody will die: Angie Motshekga on reopening schools

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has defended her department’s decision to reopen schools from June 1.
Image: GCIS/Kopano Tlape

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has told the country that she “cannot guarantee” that every single pupil will be safe from contracting Covid-19 when grade 7s and 12s go back to school on June 1.

Motshekga said she took exception from people who insinuated that the department was reckless for reopening schools despite being unable to guarantee that learners will be safe.

If she’d had her way, the “coronavirus should have never happened”, she said. But now that the whole world was battling with the pandemic, the only thing the department could do was take the necessary precautions.

Furthermore, despite Covid-19, life must continue, said the minister, who was agitated by a question on what guarantees there were about safety and whether all safety measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) would be in place on time at all schools.

Motshekga also said parents who wished to keep their children away from school when they reopen — citing the lack of a guarantee for safety — were welcome to do so. However, the department was not going to be held at ransom by people’s personal preferences.

“Guaranteeing [whether or not] people are safe — it is a very difficult one. We are doing everything in our power to protect everyone,” said the minister.

“It is not as if we are so cruel that we would just lead people to death. Why should they die — what did they do? What we are working on is to put all the necessary safety measures in place. As to whether one will be in a car accident going to work or such guarantees, I cannot [say].

“Imagine saying we will wait for coronavirus even if it ends in 2022 because we cannot make guarantees. It is not possible.

“That is why we have opened the economy in level 3, which is not because we are certain there will not be infections. The reality is that life must go on.

“I cannot stand here tonight and say, ‘I put my head on the block — nobody is going to die.’ I cannot do that. But we will try our best to have everyone safe.”

Motshekga said all learners and teachers will be screened on a daily basis, while surfaces will be sanitised daily.

As things stand, school structures’ surfaces are not contaminated after the schools closed seven weeks ago, she said.

Cleaning with the daily application of sanitiser will only start on June 1.

As to who will do the work of applying the sanitiser on surfaces, as well as screening learners, Motshekga said the department of public works will have to intervene in some provinces, while some provinces will have to hire people specifically for that job.




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