DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has said that the first day of school went smoothly without any major incident reported in the province.
About 6 000 schools reopened yesterday for the third term.
Department officials including Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu visited different parts of the province to assess the situation.
They also visited the Phoenix area where amid the looting last week people were killed and racial tensions have flared.
“The MEC was there on Sunday and again yesterday. The issue of violence there was not directed at schools. It was a matter that happened in the society, and because we are in society, we were also affected,” said department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa.
Mthethwa said they were confident that the area was safe for their teachers and pupils.
“The police are deployed in the area,” he said.
Mthethwa said Mshengu was pleased with how the reopening had progressed by yesterday afternoon.
“We are still gathering information from the different districts, but the MEC is happy with the smooth reopening.”
Teacher unions expressed the same sentiments, saying the first day had been without incident. But they expressed concern about whether the department would be ready to accommodate the return of all pupils that are expected to attend school on a full-time basis next week, including primary school pupils.
Thirona Moodley, National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa KZN chief executive, said they had received positive responses regarding the attendance of pupils and teachers.
She said amid the uncertainty after the unrest and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was important for pupils, teachers and parents to stay positive and remain motivated to conclude the school year with flying colours.
“We implore the Department of Education in this province to fast-track the repairs to infrastructure and replace furniture and other resources that were destroyed. All primary school learners are expected to return to school every day from August 2.
“We are not comfortable with crowded classrooms, screening points and the one-metre social distancing that cannot be complied with.
“We definitely do support the attendance of learners in school every day, however, without compromising the health of everyone,” she said.
National Teachers Union vice-president Sibusiso Malinga said they were also concerned about all grades returning on August 2.
“Looking at the history of the department, we cannot be certain they will have everything in place by then. The challenges of infrastructure are not brought on by Covid-19 but only made worse by it, there are schools that had building plans waiting, classes are overcrowded,” he said.
Malinga said that so far they had been informed that the reopening had largely gone smoothly.
“We are still getting and consolidating information. We have heard of schools where there are minor problems.”