Students wait in line maintaining a safe social distance while being screened at Constantia Primary school as students return back to school in this file picture. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Students wait in line maintaining a safe social distance while being screened at Constantia Primary school as students return back to school in this file picture. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Teachers’ unions reject 0.5m social distance for primary school and want meeting with Minister Motshekga

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Aug 4, 2021

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Johannesburg - TEACHERS’ unions have asked for an urgent meeting with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga over the new social distance regulations for primary schools in the country.

The Unions, National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), National Teachers Union (Natu), Professional Educators Union (PEU), South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) are united in their view that the education authorities did not consult with them on their intention to change social distancing from 1m to 0.5m between pupils in primary schools.

In their joint statement released on Wednesday, all unions are saying the new development took place after the publication of the new DBE Covid-19 Directions, on Saturday, July 31, that determines social distance as being 1m.

“But, despite warnings from the teacher unions that 1m social distancing is not possible when all primary school pupils return to school, it is clear that — after two school days – compliance with the 1m social distancing is virtually impossible, when the traditional timetable is followed.

“The teacher unions wish to put it on record that they were not consulted with regard to the new proposed reduced social distance of 0.5m in primary schools.

“It is our contention that this matter must be the subject of genuine consultations with the organised teaching profession, and that it must be supported by scientific evidence that the planned reduction will not lead to further infections among pupils, educators, and members of the broader community,” the unions said.

The unions are adamant that no scientific evidence, thus far, has been provided to the unions, in connection with the acceptability of such a reduction.

The teacher unions further wish to record that they are in favour of a return to normality, to ensure that the traditional timetables in schools may be reintroduced, but it could not be at the expense of compliance with the required health and safety protocols that the Department of Health has insisted on since March 26, 2020.

“Our advice to schools, in the interim, is that where the 1m social distancing cannot be complied with, the schools should follow the deviation provisions as contained in the Gazette, and continue with rotational timetabling.

“This is done in the best interest of the child, educators and the community, and to ensure that schools do not become super-spreaders, but rather the barriers against transmission of Covid-19,” the unions vowed.

Political Bureau

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