Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department was confident that schools could comply with all other measures. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department was confident that schools could comply with all other measures. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Cautious steps as teaching staff return to school

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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Cape Town - Principals, school management teams (SMTs) and non-teaching staff, are returning to school today, supposedly fully vaccinated, but with much trepidation.

Progressive Principals’ Association spokesperson Anthea Adriaanse said they wanted to return to school with a positive disposition to lead effectively, however, each school has its own context and with it a range of challenges.

Andriaanse said some of the concerns were the impact of the ongoing taxi violence on staff and learners, and the fear of travelling and lack of other public transportation.

She said their is uncertainty regarding the return of all primary school learners from August 2, as most of the schools could not accommodate all learners adhering to social distancing.

"Other concerns include clarity regarding teachers who were granted concession to work off-site due to comorbidities, the attendance of learners due to testing positive or being in isolation, and the impact of teacher absenteeism due to illness, isolation or infection with the virus," she said.

According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), directions issued last week, principals, SMTs and non-teaching staff were expected to return to school today to prepare for the return of learners and educators on Monday (July 26).

The amended directions indicated that all primary school learners (Grades R to 7) must return to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model from August 2, and that high schools were to continue using a differentiated timetabling model, according to capacity and resources, and were to maintain a physical distance of at least one metre.

Educators Union of SA provincial chairperson André de Bruyn said the mere fact that SMTs needed to be at school to plan for the full return of learners clearly, showed that the department does not know how to ensure social distancing.

“This makes reverting to SMTs to try and navigate an impossible task,” he said.

De Bruyn said unions who agreed to full learner capacity did not only break the international Covid-19 regulations (as social distancing will be impossible), but they also seem to protect the interest of the employer rather than the teachers, learners and community as a whole.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department was confident that schools could comply with all other measures.

"Schools have had to appoint staff as compliance officers to monitor adherence to the protocols that are in place," she said.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said there has been a lot of anxiety because of the Delta variant.

Vanessa Le Roux, founder of the Parents for Equal Education SA, said their question remained, how will school governing bodies and SMTs manage the full return, when in normal circumstances they already battle with overcrowded classrooms?

Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) deputy chief executive Jaco Deacon said they believed that most schools would be ready to start with the third term.

Deacon said the vaccination in the education sector removed another hurdle and they trusted that schools would be safer for learners and staff.

"We appeal to provincial departments to allow school leadership to fulfil their duties within the specific circumstances of the school and the community and not to micromanage schooling, but rather support schools to complete the curriculum on time," he said.

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