Pupils may have to stay home if virus ramps up
Director-general Mathanzima Mweli said yesterday that they were watching the pandemic closely and their plan to return pupils to school would depend on how the virus was spreading. He was briefing members of the Basic Education portfolio committee on progress made so far.
“About 52% of the pupils are coming. We’ve had community infections flaring up and we have discussed this with unions. We are saying our plan is extremely flexible, we are not going to just push for 52% to come if we can see there is danger. The community infections might spill over to schools.
“We are very cautious about that and will look at all of this, we will have a very flexible plan,” he said.
Mweli said it was important not just to be mindful of the department’s capacity to run the system, but of the Department of Health’s ability to deal with flare-ups of infections in communities.
“We are alive to that reality and we are working with the Department of Health to take advice,” he said.
The department also touched on the end-of-year exams, warning that it would not allow for the adjusting of Grade 12 exam papers.
It said despite all the challenges faced by the class of 2020, pupils would have enough time to cover the entire curriculum.
Members of the portfolio committee had asked the department to consider making adjustments to the exam papers for the matric class of 2020.
However, the proposal was rejected, with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga saying there would be no alterations or adjustment of exam papers.
“That again is problematic. One wonders how that is going to happen. We are talking about an examination set for a normal year, whereas here we are talking about a very abnormal year. One wonders even how Umalusi will handle this, in terms of the quality and value of the certificate that Grade 12 pupils would have,” Mweli said.
He said the Grade 12 exam paper should be sacrosanct.
“We don’t want a situation where you have someone in your house that is perpetually referred to as the Grade 12 of 2020 that was treated differently. We are not going to lower the standards. We are preparing these children for the content and for the work. We believe they are the best and should be taken through the same process,” he said.
Professor Labby Ramrathan, director of the School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said there was too much uncertainty at the moment to know if the curriculum could be covered.
He said the best way to manage the process was to put in mechanisms to adjust the way subjects were marked.
“This will be fair to the pupils and to the department,” he said.
Meanwhile, the department revealed that a total of 20140 teachers had reported having comorbidities since schools reopened early this month. There are 18791 teachers who were aged 60 and above as at June 23.
Mweli noted that the highest number of those with comorbidities, or multiple medical conditions, were in KZN and the Eastern Cape.
A report tabled at the meeting showed that KZN had 3055 teachers above 60. KZN led with teachers with comorbidities with a total of 4127.