Helpmekaar College and Curro agree to delay reopening by two weeks after meeting Lesufi
Johannesburg – The head of Helpmekaar College and the chief executive of Curro schools have agreed to delay the reopening of the institution following a discussion with Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi.
Lesufi went to Helpmekaar on Monday after reports that the school had sent a communique to parents saying pupils should report back on January 18.
This was despite the Department of Basic Education (DBE) decision to postpone the re-opening of schools from January 27 to February 15 owing to concerns over rising Covid-19 infections in the province. Like all private schools in Gauteng, Helpmekaar and Curro had already started their academic year when the announcement was made.
The two-week delay is expected to give the province’s health system, which is under huge Covid-19 pressure, a reprieve as the virus can be treated in about 14 days.
After meeting with the management of Helpmekaar, Lesufi said it was commendable they had reconsidered the re-opening of the school and agreed with him on the dangers of the virus and how devastating it could be.
He said the school had re-opened before the DBE’s announcement but had reviewed the decision. The school would migrate classes to an online platform and would only keep seven learners in their board facility as they did not have access to online learning support while at home.
Lesufi said he had engaged the management of Curro schools as they had planned to re-open on Monday.
“I spoke to the CEO of Curro schools and they have also agreed to retract face-to-face learning. The province is under siege from the Covid-19 virus and we need everyone to play their part,” he said.
The decision to delay the re-opening of schools followed talks with Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga where they raised several concerns based on the expert advice they had been getting from the province’s corona command council.
“The council indicated three areas of serious concern, including that many people would be returning to Gauteng from other provinces following the festive season,” Lesufi said.
“Second, Gauteng was already beginning to experience an influx of people from outside the country as the borders were still open then, and last, many companies were also resuming operations – meaning workers were also flocking to the province.”
Lesufi said the sheer numbers of those returning to Gauteng was creating a serious threat to learning in the province as re-opening schools meant about 2.5 million parents (combined total in both private and public sector schools in the province) had to begin preparing their children for school. That, he said, would require a lot of movement as parents would buy uniforms and stationery, thus giving Covid-19 more scope to spread and infect people.
“The delay in re-opening schools does not speak to the schools’ capability to manage the virus; it is more to help minimise the movement of people so that we reduce the chances of infections,” said Lesufi.
“Schools may as well have the means to sanitise and keep social distancing; but those learners move daily between home and schools, thereby raising the chances that young people – who have also been identified as Covid-19 vulnerable – spread this virus,” he said.
Lesufi further indicatedthe province was in the process of requesting the DBE to ensure the two weeks’ delay was gazetted so that the decision becomes law.
“We will retreat for two weeks and monitor the situation; wait for the experts to advice and then make an announcement on whether we return in two weeks or not. Our decision will always be based on sound, scientifically-backed advice,” he said.