As parents voice their anxiety ahead of the beginning of the school year, and with the country battling soaring Covid-19 infection numbers, the department of basic education has sought to restore calm, saying the same protocols that applied in schools last year will be implemented this year.
This was confirmed by department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga on Friday, who also said “nothing much” was happening in terms of changes.
Last year, classes were rotated, with pupils attending school at different times of the week to maintain social distancing, teachers with comorbidities were asked to declare their illnesses and a range of measures meant to prevent Covid-19 infection, such as adequate physical distancing between pupils, regular handwashing and compulsory wearing of masks, were implemented.
This comes amid anxiety in the basic education sector on whether school will resume as normal this year.
There were mixed reactions from stakeholders about what the picture would look like in schools. Some were confident that last year’s protocols would probably be re-implemented. However, the majority indicated that they had not been consulted by the department of basic education.
Early this week, City Press also learnt from a reliable source that discussions were held to determine whether protocols to be adopted by the sector were adhering to the adjusted level 3 national lockdown regulations announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on December 28. When schools closed last year, the country was on alert level 1.
Johannes Motona, president of the Professional Educators’ Union, said the department had not yet communicated with the union about the protocols and he had no idea when it would.
“We believe that, by now, we should have been consulted so that we could give our inputs and standpoint in relation to the reopening of schools in this deadly Covid-19 context.
“This indicates poor planning and the lack of a sense of urgency on the part of the department of basic education while this deadly pandemic is killing officials and teachers in huge numbers. The question is: Who will teach pupils if there are no teachers to deliver the curriculum? You can’t put curriculum delivery first and the safety and health of the pupils and workforce second,” said Motona.
He added that it was time the department took the lives of officials, teachers and pupils very seriously and provided a safe working environment that would ensure their comfort and security.
“We can’t afford not to be consulted when schools are to reopen, as that denies us time to consult with our constituencies properly to get valuable inputs,” he said.
Paul Colditz, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA, said no new directions had been published this year.
“The effect is that the directions published last year will still apply if they aren’t replaced before schools reopen,” he said.
‘TOO SOON’ FOR PROTOCOLS
Dr Anthea Cereseto, national CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, said that a lot could happen before public schools were scheduled to open on January 27.
She said school governing body associations would be consulted.
“Depending on the Covid-19 lockdown level, directions and protocols will be in place. Schools should be planning for different scenarios, depending on whether the Covid-19 situation improves or worsens. Much was learnt last year that will assist schools to prepare, but it’s too soon for the department of basic education to issue any instructions.
“Obviously, the health protocols will still have to be in place. Some independent schools have delayed their reopening, which was scheduled for next week. I believe that for public schools, it’s a matter of waiting until we know more about the Covid-19 infection situation,” said Cereseto.
Should schools be allowed to reopen this month, given the current surge of Covid-19 infections across the country?
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