Letter to The Honourable Kwazi Mshengu, KZN MEC for Education

29 May 2020

Letter – Department of Education and Teachers’ unions

ATT:       The Honourable Kwazi Mshengu, KZN MEC for Education

Mr. Sandile Phakathi, KZN Head of Ministry for Education

Dr Ngogi Mahaye, Director, KZN Department of Education

Thirona Moodley, Provincial Chief Executive Officer, NAPTOSA

Nomarashiya Caluza, Provincial Secretary, SADTU

C.S. Barnes, General Secretary, NATU

Innes Kritzinger, Provincial Chair, SAOU

Sithembiso Sithole, Provincial Chair, PEU

Dear Colleagues,

We, leaders representing ecumenical churches in KZN, write to you at this time when many are fatigued of lockdown and yet concerned about the risks of allowing our children back to school. We affirm the support and leadership that our government is continuously providing during this challenging time. We equally understand that it is in the interest of government and parents to ensure that the future of our children is not jeopardized by them being out of school for longer than necessary. We also affirm your concern for the safety of every child and educator to be a priority before they can resume their normal activities.

We applaud the announcement made by the Department of Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, that some learners will be able to start returning to school. The truth is that school is where learners spend most of their time not only for education but also for access to food, a safer space than their homes and a space to socialize with their peers.

However, safety in schools during this time of the COVID 19 pandemic is a priority, not only to the learners but also teachers, administration and other support staff. People at risk include those involved in the transportation of the learners to and from school. As a result, parents and guardians need assurance that they are making the right decision when they let their children return to school. With this is also the agreement between the teacher trade unions and the department of basic education on the safety pre-conditions which must be adhered to by government before learning can take place. This agreement is in line with the protocols that have been put in place and the same procedures that are used everywhere else where screening and testing needs to take place.

We note with concern some of the challenges currently faced by schools:

  • Slow or non-delivery of PPE
  • provision of water tanks
  • provision of additional classrooms
  • refurbishment of vandalized classes
  • cleaning and disinfecting of schools

We also note the Statement put out by the SAHRC Urging the Minister of Basic Education to reconsider the date for reopening schools for Grade 7 and 12 learners because the above challenges have not yet been adequately addressed.

We therefore, call on our Provincial government and Teachers’ Unions to support the educators and learners by ensuring that the following issues are prioritized and implemented as a matter of urgency:

  • Speed up the supply and delivery (using local service providers where possible) of PPE.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of schools
  • A clear plan on teachers and learners with co-morbidities or existing illnesses, including teachers older than 60 years. For learners this needs to include ensuring they have access to age- and grade-appropriate high-quality online and telephonic educational support together with an uncomplicated procedure to register for an online stream.
  • Appointment of people who will administer sanitizing and screening of learners and teachers during school hours
  • Employment of replacement teachers
  • Provision of water tanks where these are not yet in place to ensure hand-washing is possible
  • Additional classrooms to support physical and social distancing
  • Provision of security of the PPE when delivered in schools in light of the burglaries and break-ins that schools have experienced over this time
  • Provision and safety of scholar transport
  • Provision of adequate funding for implementing these measures

We also request that the opening up creches is urgently discussed by the department. As the economy opens, this places care-givers (particularly mothers) in an impossible situation. Additionally, young children are also extremely vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation if they are left alone at home or in the care of an inappropriate family member. We have heard some horrendous reports. Hence our concern that a suitable way forward be found, which safeguards our young children.

We would also like to highlight that there are churches within our coalition who have offered their buildings to be used at this time, as additional classrooms to make physical distancing easier. We are open to discussion on how this could be done.

Finally, we fear that failure to meet these important suggested safety measures will cause a disastrous loss of confidence by parents in government systems thereby eroding all the good work that has been achieved thus far. We offer our prayers for wisdom for you all in this important time.

In faith,

+ Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group and Chairperson of the KZN Inter Religious Council.

Dean Nkosinathi Myaka, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Bishop Nathi Zondi, on behalf of the Steering Committee of the KZN: Covid 19 Churches Respond project.

KZN Covid-19: Churches Respond: Letter to His excellency, President C. Ramaphosa

11 April 2020
The Presidency President Cyril Ramaphosa Union Buildings Government Avenue Pretoria Email: presidentrsa@presidency.gov.za Copied: Honourable KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala

Dear Sir, Your Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa

KZN Covid-19: Churches Respond – Affirming your Leadership and Pledging Our Support
We are a broad and inclusive coalition of Churches, Christian Associations, Ecumenical Networks and Ministers’ Fraternals committed to using our extensive footprint across the KwaZulu Natal Province to respond more effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lockdown and their respective impact.
Your Excellency, today, we wish to applaud and affirm your leadership and that of the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize in this time of disaster. We further express our appreciation for the work of the KZN Premier, Honourable Sihle Zikalala as well as the MEC for Health, Honourable Nomagugu Simelani-Zulu for meeting and updating Church Leaders on the way forward. We express our full support for your government’s efforts to save lives and in the process “flatten the curve”. We do this even as we stand in solidarity and mourning with the millions around KZN and the country whose very lives are threatened by both the Coronavirus and the extended lockdown.
In particular we affirm the generous and commendable example set by you, your Cabinet and the Premiers, of pledging a third of your salary to the Solidarity Fund. This is a powerful gesture of inestimable symbolic value. We gladly notify you that the Churches across the KwaZulu Natal province, are pledging R1 million to the relief emergency in our province.

As a Church united against the pandemic, we are putting together Emergency Relief that will roll-out cash vouchers to 1000 vulnerable families in each of the 11 Districts over the next three months through our Church-based fundraising efforts.

Other elements of our provincial plan include; (i) Communications, Education and Awareness, (ii) Pastoral care and Support, (iii) Advocacy and support around social and economic vulnerability. All of this is undergirded by an inter-denominal space for prayer and theological reflection. Full details are available on our website www.covid19response.co.za.

As Church Leaders, we continue calling on all churches, Christian Associations and ecumenical organisations and networks in KZN to come on board with specific and practical support for the coordinated work taking place at Ward level through the various Church structures we are setting up.

We further support your call for those who have resources to make a similar contribution urgently. Now is the time for sacrifice, for self-sacrificing generosity, and most importantly for Corporate responsibility, care and solidarity.

We are grateful for the third dimension of your latest strategy to address COVID-19, the programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households. We need to express our anxiety and concern for the poorest and most vulnerable at this time. May we urge you to expedite that relief through the Solidarity Fund as soon as possible.

We are receiving daily calls from across all 11 Districts from desperate individuals and communities, including some who don’t know where their next meal or rental payment is going to come from; from survivors who remain in abusive homes because they are afraid of starvation; from car guards, refugees and casual workers do not have any income. We endorse your call to support these, the most vulnerable urgently.

As we commemorate the death and celebrate the resurrection of Christ this weekend, we move from grief and lamentation to hope and new life for all humanity. This Crisis reminds us that we hold in tension the fear of death on the cross and the hope of the resurrection to a new life of Christ. At this time, we pray most ardently that he creates for us a new, more just dispensation for all South Africans.

Christ is risen! He is alive! The Resurrection is real!

+ Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group and Chairperson of the KZN Inter Religious Council.

Dean Nkosinathi Myaka, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Bishop KE Khomo, President Interdenominational African Ministers Association in South Africa (IDAMASA)

Bishop B Mchunu, President Church Leaders Council of South Africa (CLCSA)

Bishop Nathi Zondi, Truevine Family of Churches

Rev Sipho Sokhela, National General Secretary South Africa YMCA.

Daniela Gennrich, Coordinator We Will Speak Out South Africa

Rev Gregory Matthei, Baptist Union of Southern Africa

Rev Janice Nomvuyo Mpuqa, Chairperson of the Thukela, Amajuba & Mzinyathi Christian Council

Bishop BM Buthelezi, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Region Christian Council

Archbishop Sthembiso BB Ngcamu, Chairperson of the Southern KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Hope vouchers!

We are excited to announce these! A Hope Voucher costs R410 and is sent as an SMS to a vulnerable household. They can be used at any Shoprite, Pick ‘n Pay, Usave, Checkers or Boxer store, in full or in part, to purchase food and other essential items. Pop over to www.covid19response.co.za for more info and to donate.
In partnership with:

CityHope Disaster Relief

Domino Foundation

KZNCC
 @SACC,
RedCross

South Africa and

Zoë-Life
.