School contact sports red-carded by the department
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DURBAN - THE announcement by the Department of Basic Education that all contact sports in schools have been suspended with immediate effect has been given the nod by school governing bodies (SGBs) and other education stakeholders.
The department made the announcement yesterday, revealing the move was taken by the council of education ministers, during a virtual meeting yesterday.
The statement released by the department said non-contact sports training in schools could continue, provided all the Covid-19 safety measures were observed. The department also urged schools to ensure there was no physical contact between participants during training.
The decision comes after the department had gazetted directions allowing non-contact sport, sports-related activities, and school-based art and cultural activities to resume without spectators, subject to adherence to safety measures.
The department said during the last week of the first term, Covid-19 outbreaks related to school sports activity in Gauteng were reported, and have been gradually increasing in term two. It said it was evident that, despite following the protocols, contact sport events still contributed to the spread of Covid-19.
According to the statement, the Outbreak Response Team said that the risk was high when engaged in close-contact sport, especially with people who did not live together.
“In this regard, all close-contact sporting activities have been suspended with immediate effect. This is effective until the clusters outbreak is subsequently over, with no further cases reported – including in preparatory school sport,” said the department, adding that they would continue to monitor the situation.
A Government Gazette would be issued with the notice in the coming days, added the department.
General secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies Matakanye Matakanya said they were in support of the decision.
Matakanya said pupils, teachers, and parents should all view the decision as a means to protect and save lives, adding that the department should quickly change the law, by ensuring that the decision was gazetted under the Disaster Management Act.
“It must be regulated quickly. If it’s a statement like this, it won’t be a crime for schools to continue with their sporting activities. We are hoping that it will be gazetted soon so that it will fall within the law,” he said.
Soon after the decision was announced, a Durban school issued an internal communication to parents that they were waiting for an official signed copy of the Government Gazette, relating to contact sport suspension.
Matakanya said, as an organisation, they were concerned about the rise in infections and urged parents, teachers and governing bodies to emphasise the importance of following all protocols.
“We might regard children as ‘low risk’ but they can spread the virus to older community members and parents. We have seen that contact sports have become a super-spreader, especially in Gauteng, so it’s best that we avoid such activities,” he added.
The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools chief executive Paul Colditz welcomed the decision and urged the department to move with speed in gazetting it. He said, given the fact that there has been a spike in infections directly linked to sporting activities in schools, it was a safer option.
He added that the pupils especially those in matric would be disappointed.
“It’s the last opportunity for those in matric, considering the fact that they also missed out last year. If you’re talking about holistic education, sports and other extramural activities, such as culture and art, are extremely important for the development of the balanced adult.”
Yesterday, a planned rugby match between Michaelhouse and Glenwood High School went ahead.
Murray Witherspoon, a spokesperson from Michaelhouse said: “We intend adhering to the gazette. This means that, as far as we are concerned, we are going to continue with our game today. The minute the gazette comes out, we will then cancel all our planned games.”
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA executive director Basil Manuel said that they wished the department handled the matter more sensitively. “By sensitive, I mean we look at the provinces where problems are occurring and call a halt there and when it settles down, they can continue.
Manuel said he respected the department for taking the precaution, however, he would have preferred a staggered, differentiated approach dealing with where the cluster outbreaks were happening and how severe the outbreaks were.