The court case brought by the Solidarity Occupational Guild for Social Workers and the Solidarity School Support Centre (SSC) against the Department of Social Development on the re-opening of nursery schools, scheduled to be heard today, was postponed to Tuesday 30 June. The Occupational Guild and the SSC resorted to the courts about the current uncertainty that is being caused by the Department as this department does not want to announce dates for the reopening of private nursery schools and daycare centres.
On 4 June the Occupational Guild and the SSC addressed an urgent letter to the Minister of Social Development to resolve the uncertainty. Dates for the reopening of departmental nursery schools have already been announced by the Department of Education, but private nursery schools and daycare centres have not been included. After no response was received from the minister, the guild and the SSC proceeded with an urgent court application.
Meanwhile, the Department on 22 June addressed a letter to the owners of nursery schools and daycare centres indicating when they may return to work, but no date has been provided for the return of the children.
“Many children in departmental nursery schools will, one of these days, return to school while thousands of other children in private nursery schools are deprived of this basic human right by government,” said Marisa Engelbrecht, sector head at Solidarity’s Occupational Guild of Social Workers. “It is worrying, because this deliberate silence from the Department of Social Development has a negative influence on children’s scholastic progress and will cause serious backlogs. Furthermore, parents are concerned for they have no place to leave their children while they themselves must return to work. There are also many children that are exposed to domestic violence at home and for many children the meal they received at school was their only meal of the day.”
The judge ordered that the case be postponed so that other relevant rulings regarding the reopening of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic can be considered.
“This type of behaviour by the Department creates uncertainty and confusion,” said Anton van der Bijl, Head of Labour Law Services at Solidarity. “The Department of Social Development had an excellent opportunity to explain their discriminating and irrational behaviour. However, as always, government once again conspicuous by their absence and incompetence which will unfortunately lead to large-scale job losses and poverty. We cannot and may not merely accept this behaviour, and we will continue to fight for justice. One positive from this matter is that there is a massive disillusionment which once again showed us that we cannot rely on government for help, but that we must be an independent community which supports and helps each other.”