Experts weigh in on reopening of schools amid the third wave
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Durban - With the third wave of Covid-19 infections currently sweeping across South Africa, education experts say the Department of Basic Education should monitor the infection rate and make appropriate decisions on a continual basis, and consider partial reopening.
This comes after growing concern about the resuming of contact learning in classrooms from July 19, as public schools are set to reopen amid a peak in infections. According to the National Department of Health, the new Delta variant is said to be more infectious than other variants and also affects children.
UKZN’s education expert, Professor Labby Ramrathan, says the reopening of schools amid the third wave may not be a wise decision and that one cannot make a blanket decision about opening or keeping schools closed.
“The pandemic is a characteristic of the 21st century challenges of uncertainty and continued disruptions. One needs to track the development of the disease and make appropriate decisions on a continual basis so that the decisions are responsive to the context.
“While schools reopening has been planned for July 19, this may not happen on a grand scale. Partial opening may be possible, and crucial transition classes may be allowed into schools. A clear balance is needed in terms of the need to continue with schooling and the health of the learners and educators.
“All grades of schooling were disrupted substantially in 2020, and as such, learners were not able to receive the planned curriculum. Attempts were made to cover crucial aspects of the curriculum. With the further disruption of schooling this year, more loss of learning opportunities is possible. Therefore, this year’s matrics need to work more substantially on their own, and schools need to expand on support provided to them outside of normal school hours to cope with the demands of the curriculum.”
The Department of Basic Education says it is assessing the impact of Covid-19 infections in the country on a weekly basis, and so far, there are no plans to change its plans to reopen schools on July 19, 2021.
Chairperson of the Parent Association of KwaZulu-Natal, Vee Gani, says there is talk that President Cyril Ramaphosa may extend the lockdown, and if this happens, it will impact the reopening of schools.
“Our Covid numbers are high, and it is highly possible that the reopening of schools may be delayed or it may revert to the previous arrangement that allowed children to attend on different days in order to control the numbers in schools and curb the spread of the virus. Remember, our learners are not vaccinated, and they would also be at risk.”
“Our 2020 matriculants were most disadvantaged when school was closed for months last year. However, they survived the year and wrote their matric exams. It is an expectation that while schools may be closed, learning continues. Most educators have been vaccinated thus far. However, the taking of the vaccine is a choice that they make.
“Parents, ultimately, have the responsibility for their children’s education. Even if school is closed, parents should still allow learning to take place at home so that the learner does not lose out. It is too early for parents to contemplate whether or not their child should “miss this academic year” as the curriculum appears to be on track. The closure of schools now impedes on this process.
“The curriculum, in all probability, may be re-adjusted as was done last year to mitigate the loss of contact teaching time. One has to wait for announcements by the presidency, taking into account any risk assessment before any official decisions are to be made.”