Schools return to full-time teaching but the worries about Covid-19 remain
Share this article:
Cape Town - Schools are reopening today, but the worries about Covid-19 remain even though thousands of teaching staff have already been vaccinated.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said schools were looking forward to welcoming pupils back after the extended holiday.
Vanessa le Roux, the founder of Parents for Equal Education SA, said that prior to the closing of schools due to a rise in infections, their fear had always been whether protocols were being observed in schools, even on a rotational basis, as one of the biggest challenges of schools in poor and disadvantaged communities was overcrowded classrooms with up to 50 pupils per class.
Le Roux said teacher unions that supported the plan did not have the interests of their members and children at heart.
Educators Union of South Africa provincial chairperson André de Bruyn said the union was in shock after hearing that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had made contact with the minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to have the “1m rule” scrapped as part of their Covid-19 protocols.
De Bruyn said the reason the DBE did this was because they knew social distancing would not be possible when schools were back at full capacity.
"They are willing to risk our children, our teachers and educational support staff to chase a curriculum that was drawn up pre-Covid-19 and does not speak to the needs of our pupils at this abnormal time," said De Bruyn.
Schäfer said the existing Covid-19 safety protocols for schools would continue to be followed.
"I am aware that some people have been concerned about the implications of the return to normal timetables in primary and special needs schools," she said.
She added that they had asked their schools to write to the head of department if they would not be able to return to full daily attendance, as well as the reasons for that. The deadline to do so was extended to July 23, and those applications to continue with rotational timetabling would be processed this week.
Independent Schools' Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) executive director Lebogang Montjane said that when schools were closed, their member schools moved to remote teaching and learning. So, for all intents and purposes, the venue for learning was all that effectively changed – from a physical classroom to a virtual classroom.
Montjane said Isasa member schools would be returning to in-person instruction from today. However, some schools, depending on the level of disease burden, may elect to continue with remote teaching and learning.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the sector had held countless consultative sessions to deliberate on the reopening of schools.
Motshekga said school management teams and support staff had already gone back to work, as of last Thursday, to prepare for the return of pupils and teachers.