DoE must be more proactive in stopping spread of COVID-19 – DA KZN

Imran Keeka says it is unfathomable that dept has taken so long to send out first communication on issue

DA calls on KZN Education Department to be more proactive in stopping the spread of COVID-19

12 March 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the release of a circular by KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Education (DoE) in which Head of Department (HOD) Dr Enock Nzama provides information about COVID-19 and outlines methods to limit the spread of contagious conditions.

The document was issued yesterday to key role players within the Education sector including departmental officials, principals and School Governing Bodies (SGBs).

It has always been a case of "when" and not "if" COVID-19 would reach our shores and so it is unfathomable that the DoE has taken so long to send out its first communication on this issue.

While the DA welcomes the circular, it is still not enough and the DoE needs to urgently produce and disseminate a pamphlet to KZN’s learners. With 2.8 million learners in our province, this message has the potential to reach millions of homes. The roll-out of such an awareness programme has the potential to save many lives and must be acted upon.

Regrettably, the DoE is lagging when it comes to communication in general. This is not just relevant to this latest virus, but about any contagious condition that spreads where there is a lack of education around proper hand washing techniques and cough etiquette. While it is a well-known fact that ordinary flu takes many more lives each year than COVID-19 and while there is no need for panic, there is still good reason to roll out awareness programmes.

With overcrowding and up to 115 learners in a single class in some schools, 1 300 schools with pit latrines, lack of access to water and soap as basics, KZN’s schools are a toxic brew waiting to cause problems and it will be a very real missed opportunity if the MEC does not commit to a proper awareness programme from today.

During a Sitting of the KZN Legislature held last week, the DA called for an urgent executive statement from KZN Education MEC, KwaziMshengu, on his Department’s contingency measures within the province’s schools. To date, there is no indication that this will take place.

Amongst the recommendations that the DA has are the urgent assessment - through DoE circuit and district offices - of the schools that are without soap and water for proper hand washing. Once this has taken place, the DoE must ensure that this is resolved either through the urgent installation of jojo tanks or by interacting with municipalities to ensure piped water is available. The Department needs to re-prioritise funding to ensure this takes place soon, rather than having to deal with problems later.

The DA will continue to perform its oversight role to ensure that these measures are effected as soon as possible. We also reiterate our call on MEC Mshengu to table an executive statement in the KZN legislature and to update progress in this regard.

Issued by Imran Keeka,DA KZN Spokesperson on Education, 11 March 2020