Teacher unions are sceptical about the reduced 0.5metre social distance rule. Picture Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA).
Teacher unions are sceptical about the reduced 0.5metre social distance rule. Picture Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA).

Reduced 0.5metre social distance rule is superfluous, says teacher union

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Aug 17, 2021

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Reducing the current one-metre social distancing rule at schools to 0.5metres would imply that social distancing in primary schools was “superfluous”, the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU) said.

On Saturday representatives from the Department of Basic Education met with education union leaders as part of their weekly updates.

At the meeting, SAOU said unions made recommendations regarding the rule.

“There must be immutable scientific evidence that the health and lives of younger learners will not be placed at risk in the endeavour to ensure curriculum coverage. That the 0.5m social distance, or as stated here above, actually, no social distance, will not place educators at greater risk,” the unions said.

According to the union, the DBE applied for the relaxation in primary schools of the 1m social distancing to 0.5m with the National Covid Command Council and the Cabinet. The reason that the DBE advances is that younger learners in primary schools are not as susceptible to infections and if they become sick, it is not as serious.

However, last week DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told IOL that the reduced social distancing rule was not yet formalised as a proposal.

He said: “It was debated in the public prematurely as though it was a formal proposal when, in fact, it was not. It was a consideration for implementation some time in the future when approved through the appropriate forums. It was not for immediate implementation. It is not urgent either.”

This was after DBE Minister Angie Motshekga said on July 31 that she intended to approach the Cabinet to have the social distance rule at schools further reduced from the current 1 metre to 0.5m.

The union did, however, confirm that the DBE admitted that no decision had yet been made regarding the issue.

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