SA awaits for clarity on the reopening of schools from Motshekga
But Faiek Abrahams, spokesperson for the Progressive Principals Association, said sending staff back to work without adequate or sufficient personal protective equipment was a major concern.
“Some schools received some, others did not. Second, with the infection rate still climbing in the Western Cape, this is not a good time to reopen schools,” Abrahams added.
In his recent letter to principals in the province, Western Cape Education Department’s head Brian Schreuder said principals, school management teams and cleaning staff were to return to school last Wednesday.
“All school management teams and non-teaching staff should be at schools as from yesterday to continue to perform the essential functions, in preparation for the return of the full staff on Monday next week (provided non-contact thermometers have been delivered for screening purposes) and the subsequent return of learners,” Schreuder said.
Principals should also be available to receive deliveries of hygiene and safety packs, he added. “Hygiene and safety materials have been ordered for all public schools and will be delivered in various tranches.”
The packs would include hand sanitisers, liquid soap, face masks, thermometers for screening, as well as cleaning materials, including bleach.
“In preparation for the return of Grade 12 and Grade 7 pupils, schools must plan to ensure that no class has more than 40 learners and that learners are able to maintain a distance of one metre between desks and 1.5 metres between pupils,” Schreuder said.
“Schools must determine the point where social distancing will not be possible in this manner as more grades return.”
Schools need to submit physical distancing plans which could include certain grades, other than Grade 12, attending school on alternate days, he added.
The Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre and Section27 welcomed Motshekga’s address, adding that inconsistent and contradictory information had caused much confusion and anxiety.
“It has been over seven weeks since schools were first closed. While we understand that pupils’ usual access to education has necessarily had to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the Department of Basic Education is still required to ensure that the limitation on the right to basic education is reasonable and justifiable in terms of the Constitution,” they said.
Dr Bronwyn Mthimunye, former associate lecturer in the Department of Psychology at UWC, said the country’s pupils were at risk of losing out on learning with the continued closure of schools.
“Particularly at risk are children with special educational needs and disabilities, who have various difficulties. This is already a vulnerable group that requires specialised, time-sensitive education and support. Wide scale, specialised programmes are not available to children with special educational needs and disabilities and generic home-schooling and e-learning solutions may not be suitable,” Mthimunye said.
Athena Pedro, a researcher at the university, said teaching needed to be delivered time-sensitively and appropriately for a child’s development.@SISONKE_MD