The South African Human Rights Commission is calling for the return of full-time attendance of all learners, including high school learners.
This call follows the initial proposal of the Department of Basic Education to get primary school learners to return to the traditional learning model.
SAHRC commissioner Andre Guam said there should be a new directive issued by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) that would allow for the full return of all learners to school for daily attendance.
He said the DBE should discuss with the Department of Health and the Department of Corporative Governance Affairs to ensure that this new rule is implemented.
Guam said there was a reduced transmission of the virus at schools from teachers, and also, learners were at a lower risk. He said the reduced risk due to factors indicated such as – teachers being vaccinated, younger children are also in line for vaccinations, and that children being at lower risk of contracting the virus – the balancing act of right t education against safety and health was in place.
The commissioner said rotational learning was placing learners at a disadvantage.
“If we continue with this, in effect, school time is cut by a half. Schools that are operating at full capacity are ex-Model C schools. Learners most affected are from poorer schools and communities with no access. This is double jeopardy.
“We are moving forward, losing quality in terms of adequate proper education. Eastern Cape school attendance is already dismal as learners are staying away completely,” said Guam.
When the first national lockdown was imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered that schools close. This lasted for over three months. And when the directive for the reopening of schools was issued, it was based on a rotational basis as not all schools are able to uphold the one-metre social distancing measure.
Guam is now calling for that social distancing measure to be scrapped at all schools to allow for daily attendance.
He has reached out to the DBE for a meeting with Minister Angie Motshekga.
DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the meeting is scheduled for when Motshekga returns from Paris at Unesco.
“We support the call by SAHRC as they started have started an important conversation that could save the basic education sector from a catastrophe. The losses incurred as a result of Covid-19 are too much to even contemplate,” said Mhlanga.