Mixed reactions from teacher unions over suspension of contact sport in schools
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Johannesburg - There has been a mixed reaction from teachers unions following the suspension of contact sport at South African’s schools to curb cluster outbreaks of coronavirus.
The Department of Basic Education announced on Wednesday that the Council of Education Ministers took a decision to suspend all contact sport in schools with immediate effect.
The department made the decision during a virtual meeting following school sports activity-related Covid-19 outbreaks in Gauteng and the general rise of cases in communities across the country.
“Non-contact sport training in school can continue provided that all social distancing, hygiene and safety measures are observed and that there is no physical contact between participants during training,” the DBE said.
After the 2021 academic year started, the department gazetted directions allowing non-contact sport, sport-related activities and school-based arts and cultural activities to resume without spectators, subject to adherence of safety measures.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga further gazetted directions on February 12 on school sport and extramural activities, non-contact sport, sport-related activities and school-based arts and cultural activities to resume.
However, the department said that during the last week of the first term, school sports activity-related Covid-19 outbreaks in Gauteng were reported and have been gradually increasing in the second term.
The DBE added that following sports activity-related cluster outbreaks in Gauteng and the general rise of cases in communities, the Outbreak Response Team (ORT) said that the risk was high when engaging in close-contact sport, especially with people who did not live together.
“All sporting activities have been suspended with immediate effect until the cluster outbreak is over, no further cases reported, including preparatory school sport. The department will continue to monitor the situation,” the DBE said.
The department’s move to suspend contact sport with immediate effect was welcomed by the National Teachers Union (Natu), who confirmed that the department and unions discussed the matter on Tuesday night.
“The infection is rising very fast and if the learners are going to be in contact with each other during sports, that will be a problem,” Natu general secretary Cynthia Barnes said.
The union did not want a situation where coronavirus was being spread to communities from schools.
“If learners are going to get the disease from each other, they are going to go back to their families and their families will be infected. We agreed that sports should be suspended until everything is okay,” Barnes said.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said the union wished the department had handled the matter more sensitively. “I mean we look at the provinces where problems are occurring and call a halt there and when it settles down they can continue,” he said.
He respected the DBE for taking the precaution to suspend contact sport, but he would have preferred a staggered and differentiated approach dealing with where the cluster outbreaks were happening and how severe the outbreaks are. “Can we really abandon sport completely? What about those youngsters for whom sport is going to be the outcome out of one way of life, probably catapulting them into another dimension?” Manuel asked.