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Decision not to close SA schools welcomed despite surge in Covid-19 cases

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, briefs the media to provide an update on the sector’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on schooling. Photo: Supplied/GCIS/Siyabulela Duda

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, briefs the media to provide an update on the sector’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on schooling. Photo: Supplied/GCIS/Siyabulela Duda

Published Jun 21, 2021


DURBAN - THE Department of Basic Education’s decision to keep schools open was warmly received by education stakeholders despite the surge of Covid-19 cases.

Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Saturday that schools would remain open during a media briefing where she provided an update on the impact of Covid-19 on schools in the country.

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Motshekga said even though there had been a number of cases reported in schools, especially in Gauteng, most schools in other provinces remained stable.

She said the department had reported cases of 100 schools that were disrupted while in the sector there were more than 25 517.

“This means 25 400 schools remain stable and that is why we are saying let schools and provinces handle any outbreak and not expect that we must shut down the system.”

She said there was a need to do all they could to prevent a potential academic disaster.

Motshekga said the department was not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rise in infections.

National Teachers’ Union secretary-general Cynthia Barnes said they welcomed the announcement and would be observing the Covid-19 situation in schools.

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Barnes said the teachers must cover the curriculum as most pupils were still recovering from last year’s closure.

“If it happens that the virus is spreading rapidly and most pupils are getting infected, we will call for the total shutdown of the schools. At the present moment, it’s advisable to close only those schools that have cases,” she said.

Vaccination plans for teachers and staff are now in full swing as vaccines were sent to various provinces yesterday.

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The first administration of the vaccines for teachers would be rolled out on Wednesday. The vaccination rollout for teachers is expected to be concluded on July 8.

The department said they had received the 300 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines aimed at vaccinating teachers and other education staff.

Barnes said they were grateful that teachers would be vaccinated soon.

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She said the union would also be monitoring the process to ensure that teachers from rural communities were not left out.

Vee Gani, the chairperson of the Parents Association of KZN, said the blanket approach in closing schools would have been devastating.

Gani said many of the schools were able to ensure that all Covid-19 protocols were followed and some didn’t even have cases.

“The department must be applauded because it’s a very measured and well thought through approach. We can’t risk having another blanket approach. If cases increase, then there would be a need to close all the schools, but for now it would be very premature,” he said.

Nomarashiya Caluza, from the KZN SA Democratic Teachers Union, also welcomed the decision. However, she said there were disadvantages to it.

Caluza said if schools were only closed on a case-by-case basis, the disadvantage was there would be schools continuing with teaching and learning programmes while others were closed.

“The challenge with that decision is that learners in those schools will be delayed and left behind. The more positive Covid-19 cases, the more chances of those schools being closed. As a result, there would be a gap between those schools and those which remain open.”

She said they were also pleased with the vaccination process and encouraged members to register and take the vaccine.