The department of basic education on Friday got a shot in the arm when the Chinese embassy made a generous donation to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in schools.
The department recently ordered a phased-in re-opening of schools as part of the risk-adjustment strategy to curb the spread of the virus as well as to comply with the social distance requirement. It also adopted measures such as rotational teaching and trimming the syllabus to ensure 2020 academic year is not lost.
The donation comprises basic necessities such as water tanks believed to worth R1 million, 50 000 surgical masks and 400 thermometers. This came in handy as the department would now be able to address concerns from teacher unions and parents who felt that schools were fertile grounds for the rapid transmission of the virus due to lack of protective equipment and proper sanitisation.
Said Motshekga: “Like other countries across the world, we have faced significant challenges when we started re-opening schools. Yet, throughout all these difficult times we continued to remain steadfast in our quest to ensure that the right of every child to basic education is provided, while also ensuring that all precautions are taken to save lives in all school communities.”
She said one of the main challenges they continue to wrestle with is to ensure that every child has access to sufficient and functional hand-washing facilities. “That is why we are very grateful for the tanks. We are also fighting a big battle around sanitation to make sure that learners have safe facilities in terms of both washing their hands, but also safe sanitation, which is one of our biggest challenges.”
Presenting the donation during the special official ceremony in Pretoria, Lin Nan, Charge d’affaires of the Chinese embassy, said part of the surgical masks contribution was from Lin Songtian, the former Chinese ambassador to South Africa.
Nan said that now that China has been successful in bringing down the COVID 19 infections it was a payback time, saying South Africa extended a hand of support and friendship to his country. He said South Africa through President Cyril Ramaphosa and his party and the private companies provided support in various ways when China was first hit by the pandemic.
“We still remember that, when China was at its most difficult time at the beginning of the year, president Ramaphosa, the South African government, the African National Congress, as well as private companies extended their valuable support to us in various forms and on many occasions. We appreciate it very much and will never forget this.”
He said President Xi Jinping, “highly appreciates the anti-pandemic measures and achievements of the South African government under the strong leadership of president Ramaphosa, while president Ramaphosa regards China as the true friend and reliable partner of South Africa and the African continent in the face of difficulties and challenges”.
Added Nan: “It is our turn to reciprocate the brotherhood and goodwill of South African brothers and sisters. Up to now, the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese enterprises, Chinese non-profit organisations such as Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, and local Chinese communities in South Africa have donated millions of rand and tens of thousands of personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks, protective clothes, and testing kits to South Africa. And we will continue to do so.”