Fears of chaos as more grades return to school amid coronavirus pandemic
Teachers' unions have expressed concern that Monday will be chaotic as more grades will be returning to school after a five-month long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Expected to return to class on Monday will be learners in Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 11 as well as learners attending Schools of Skill in years 1, 2 and 3.
Grades 5 and 8, as well as learners with severe intellectual disabilities will return on 31 August.
Grades 7 and 12 have already returned.
However, the Independent Media had learnt that the return of these grades would be split between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in order to manage the situation.
National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said the amount of pupils, which he said were 93% of the schools population, might create chaos.
“We can expect that Monday will be a bit chaotic given how many children have to be screened and scanned and recordings taken about their health conditions.
“So we expect that it is going to be a bit troublesome,” said Manuel.
He said in KwaZulu-Natal, principals have been given an instruction the schools must get different grades on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Most of our schools cannot communicate with the children when they are not at school. To tell them which 50% must come is just not possible,” he said.
He said the union had until early this week conducted a survey which established that most principals were worried whether or not they will have sufficient PPE.
“They are also worried about sufficient teachers to make the timetable work because teachers have not been appointed yet (to replace those who have cormobidities and whose old age makes them vulnarable to the virus).
“Some of them are worried about space, as some schools are overcrowded,” said Manuel, adding that there were still issues of water supply in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mungwena Maluleke said the delivery of face masks was still a challenge in a number of provinces, with those that had been delivered being “inadequate and of poor quality”.
“Poor quality masks means death and this must be corrected,” said Maluleke.
He said a number of schools were unsure if their cleaning staff, who were hired to clean the surfaces twice a day as part of preventing infection, would return since their contracts were not renewed.
“This means the most effective non-pharmaceutical interventions in the fight against the spread of the virus are denied and then exposing everyone to the virus,” he said.
Maluleke also called on the department to replace “undignified” mobile toilets with “dignified chemical toilets as part of promoting a healthy environment and dignity”.
IFP’s KwaZulu-Natal MPL Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa said her party was concerned about the media reports that some school principals were still waiting for substitute teachers, extra teachers and PPE to be delivered.
“If such reports prove to be true, it is nothing but a recipe for disaster, and it will be an indication that the Department is not ready for schools to reopen,” she said.
Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said all provinces were ready, and that schools would use a rotational system to ensure that social distancing is observed. “It is important to note that the grades are not expected to be in school all at once.
“The same measures that were implemented will continue except it must be done more frequently with a heightened sense of urgency,” said Mhlanga.
He said substitute teachers have been appointed to ensure that no learner is left behind.
“Covid-19 essentials have been delivered and these include water, sanitation, sanitizers, masks and other material needed to create a COVID 19 compliant environment,” he said.