Durban - Contact teaching and learning will resume on Monday at Brettonwood High School, in Durban, despite being one of the hardest hit schools in the province following the KwaZulu-Natal floods.
Ellen Zizhou, principal of the school, said they would rather temporarily teach in uncomfortable conditions than risk pupils being without contact teaching.
“We are bringing back all learners on Monday, we didn’t want them to lose out. Online teaching doesn’t begin to do justice especially for children who have missed out on a lot during Covid-19 times.
“We believe that what is happening now is worse than that of Covid-19 days because there’s comfort when it’s the whole country but now our children see other children in uniform - you can imagine how traumatising that is for them. We will work with what we have, even though we are in a difficult space and it may be a bit uncomfortable but we will teach our children,” she said.
Almost two weeks after the floods the school was still in a devastating state with a huge pool of water overtaking the sports grounds and surrounds while several areas remain inaccessible.
Zizhou said, “We lost almost everything really because our ground floor is the hub of the school, including the admin. There are 13 classes including two laboratories so we basically don’t have anything from computers to telephone records, current records, archives, our server and intercom system.
The classrooms are also damaged. We have a section for drama and performance which we still can’t even access now, just to even get in to remove the mud. We also still can’t access our changing room, but what is seen now is way better than what it was. Even though the damage is still there at least we can see some hope. The department’s swift response was very supportive.”
On Tuesday, Minister of Basic Education (DBE) Angie Motshekga and KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu visited several schools in the province to assess the damage, including Brettonwood High School.
The department said it will cost R442 million to fix schools damaged by the floods.
The DBE said 630 schools had been affected by the floods. Of these, 124 were extensively damaged. There were also 101 schools that were inaccessible.
Motshekga said, “What we are working on is to differentiate whom of those learners from the 101 schools are unable to go to school. Where are they? That is where my discussions with the minister of communications come in; on what we can do with them. Whether we can do remote and what the possibilities are.”
Mshengu said at least 320 000 pupils had been impacted.
Motshekga said a report would be sent to the communications department by Friday, detailing what would be required.
Meanwhile, Nomarashiya Caluza, spokesperson for South African Teachers Union (Sadtu) said they were fully aware that some of the schools were severely affected by the recent floods, however, teaching and learning should continue. “We know that the cleaning of schools will not take place overnight, since there are engineers who should visit the schools before reopening.
“If schools have been cleaned and are given the go-ahead, we as the union feel comfortable that teaching and learning should proceed,” she said.
Thirona Moodley, spokesperson National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) said the schools which were severely affected by floods were totally unsafe for the learners and teachers adding that, “the infrastructure of these schools has been compromised”.
Moodley said unless the infrastructure is inspected by a professional who will certify its safety, the affected schools should remain closed. “The department has received statistics of the schools that have been affected, however, there has been no physical work started and completed. It is very premature and optimistic that the affected schools should resume duties on Monday,” said Moodley.
Paul Rencken, corporate and business development manager for the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), said they were concerned about the dire situation of schools in KZN.
“Return-to-schooling for affected schools is dependent on the co-operation of other social partners, like the Department of Transport and Cogta.
“We are aware that not all KZN schools are affected throughout the province and do not want to see all schools closed - the sooner we get schools operational the better for our learners,” he said.