Most Western Cape schools cannot comply with Covid curbs
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Cape Town - There are fears that the existing inequality gap at schools will widen as thousands of primary school learners, mainly in public schools, cannot return to daily attendance owing to overcrowded classrooms and personal protective equipment (PPE) supply issues.
In the Western Cape, of the 1 010 primary schools, 894 will stay using the rotational timetable and 38 of 72 special needs schools will return to the traditional attendance of going to school five times a week.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said last week it provided 45 mobile classrooms at schools to assist with space constraints ahead of Monday, with more on the way.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga issued a gazette on Sunday instructing all learners in Grades R to 7 and Grade R to 12 learners from special needs schools to return to the daily attendance timetabling model from Monday.
However Motshekga said this is provided that the risk adjusted differentiated strategy is implemented, and the minimum health and safety measures on Covid-19 regulations were adhered to.
“The social distance measure in primary schools is reduced to one metre,” she said.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the majority of schools indicated they cannot comply with the 1m physical distancing rule, and therefore have been approved to continue with rotation.
“These figures do not surprise us, as it mirrors similar figures when schools could apply for 100% attendance earlier this year.”
Schools who applied to remain using the rotational timetable were sent letters that have conditions including that they agree to take responsibility to ensure every learner maintains a minimum of 50% attendance over a ten-day cycle.
Progressive Principals' Association spokesperson Anthea Adriaanse said anxiety from teachers still remained high, especially with some schools that don’t have constraints having to accept the return of all learners while many people are still testing positive in the sector.
“There is just anxiety as a number of staff and management are in isolation as they or families have been infected. This is placing schools under immense pressure. Also there are daily cases of learners testing positive or in isolation.”
ANC education spokesperson Khalid Sayed said while they acknowledged that the rotational model placed at risk the completion of the curriculum there was concern of the daily attendance amid Covid-19.
“The WCED has failed dismally to address the structural challenges in our education, particularly the widespread inequalities which will now allow affluent schools to return to daily attendance while over 88% of public ordinary schools have reported that they are unable to operate at full capacity.
“The fact that 894 schools out of 1010 primary schools in the province will not be able to return to daily attendance and traditional timetables, while 11.5% of primary schools will be allowed to operate at full capacity is a call on the government to put measures in place to address inequalities in education,” he said.