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Many KZN schools not ready for full-time return

Several schools in KwaZulu-Natal have opted to continue with attendance on a rotational basis due to fears of overcrowded classrooms.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga briefing the media on schools opening readiness in Pretoria. Photo GCIS.

Published Aug 3, 2021


DURBAN - SEVERAL schools in KwaZulu-Natal have opted to continue with attendance on a rotational basis due to fears of overcrowded classrooms.

The Department of Basic Education had instructed all primary school and special needs school pupils to return to full-time attendance from yesterday.

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In the gazette, Minister Angie Motshekga directed that pupils in Grade R to Grade 7 should return to the traditional daily attendance timetable, provided that the risk-adjusted differentiated strategy was implemented.

But in a recent gazette, Motshekga noted that some primary schools and special needs schools would not be able to accommodate the return of all pupils as they did not have enough space to observe the 1-metre social distance regulation.

“A school that is unable to return to the traditional and daily attendance timetabling model (and) which prefers to continue with a timetabling model, must by August 6 (Friday), notify the head of department thereof, in writing, through the district office.

“A school must then obtain the head of department’s approval to continue with a different timetabling model.

“A school must set out the steps taken to return to a traditional and daily attendance timetabling model and provide reasons for the decision to adhere to a differentiated timetabling model,” reads the gazette.

The department also gazetted that contact sport, non-contact sport, including training, intra-school and inter-school matches, arts and culture intra-school and inter-school activities, may resume without spectators.

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National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa KZN chief executive Thirona Moodley welcomed the new gazette ruling but said many schools were not going to manage.

Moodley said the unions had warned the department against the move, stating that it was risky as some schools, especially in township and rural areas, did not have enough space.

“There are schools that had applied last year to have 100% attendance, and they were granted permission to do so. Those schools continued as such this morning (yesterday), however, many who don’t have enough capacity, didn't.

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“Many schools in KZN don’t have good ventilation and large classrooms. As a result, those schools have since asked the department to continue with a rotational timetable,” she said. She said it was concerning that children were not at school as per traditional attendance.

Anthea Cereseto, chief executive of the Governing Body Foundation, said they knew from the start that many of the schools in KZN were not going to be in a position to receive all their pupils.

She said KZN had a serious shortage of classes and thus could not accommodate all pupils in class and still adhere to social-distancing regulations. “Our children are just losing out too much and that is concerning,” said Cereseto.

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Imran Keeka, DA KZN spokesperson on Education, said they were not optimistic that KZN would achieve a return of all primary school pupils before the end of the pandemic.

Education Department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa confirmed that many schools had continued with the rotational system of attendance. He said they were still gathering information and compiling reports from different schools.

“The safety of teachers and pupils is the department’s main priority and is non-negotiable. We understand why schools didn’t go with the 100% return and we can’t compromise nor force schools to return all pupils while we can see that it is not safe for them,” he said.

Mthethwa said the department was also trying to make sure that ultimately, all pupils got the opportunity to return to traditional schooling.