They roamed the streets, some with masks, some without.
The pupils were from Mpontsheng Secondary School in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, which was shut down on Wednesday because of a suspected case of Covid-19.
By Thursday, 54 schools had to be closed in Gauteng and 56 Covid-19-positive cases were confirmed.
The results of 34 tests were still pending at the time of going to print.
City Press understands that the majority of these cases affected teachers.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi was forced to self-isolate and could not attend the provincial command council’s weekly briefing. He was tested and went into isolation because two employees at his office had tested positive for the virus.
“The MEC is not sick, he’s waiting for his results,” said Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona.
A number of schools have been shut down across other provinces, and fears are rising that the number could increase next month as more pupils get ready to return to school.
City Press visited Mpontsheng Secondary School on Wednesday after receiving information that a teacher had tested positive for Covid-19 few weeks ago. The teacher had allegedly come into contact with the school management team, which comprised senior teachers.
City Press also understands that the teacher came into contact with administration clerks and other teachers, who were allegedly instructed – despite possibly having contracted the virus – to continue with teaching and learning.
The senior management team and clerks were instructed by the Ekurhuleni education department to self-isolate.
When City Press arrived at the school, visitors were sanitised at the main gates and teachers could be seen walking around the premises.
Tshepisho Mahlangu, the president of the pupil representative council, said they were told to leave the school premises.
“We have been told not to come to school from today [Wednesday] until the 24th so that our school once again can be confirmed [to be a suitable] learning and teaching environment,” Mahlangu said.
He said they were not informed about what was going on and, as pupils in Grade 12, they would continue to try to learn through their WhatsApp group.
A unionist said: “I really don’t know when this will end. Just think about matric exams. Just think about having a positive case in the middle of the exams. I don’t know if our department is thinking about this. What’s going to happen? There is going to be chaos ... the virus has not even reached its peak.”
What is happening in provinces
In the Western Cape, 61 of the 1 509 schools that reopened this week had to be closed down to allow for decontamination.
Bronagh Hammond, Western Cape education spokesperson, said two pupils had tested positive for Covid-19, but were infected before going back to their schools.
“In terms of teachers, 98 have been confirmed as positive for Covid-19,” Hammond said.
She said about 60% of pupils attended school this week, but that the current cold front had affected attendance.
The department had used the services of an existing contractor, Masiqhame Trading 1057, to procure masks to the value of R50 612 656.60.
Initially, she said, a cloth mask was R35 as the quantity order was not at a large enough scale to derive economies of scale or discounts.
She said the subsequent orders placed were for much larger consignments, resulting in a mask costing R20.50 per unit.
In Gauteng, during his presentation at the virtual provincial command council briefing on Friday, Premier David Makhura warned of a possible surge in Covid-19 cases.
Makhura said they were concerned about overcrowding when more pupils returned to school next month, which is also the height of the flu season.
He said all schools had personal protective equipment, but some masks were too small for pupils and had to be replaced.
The province was also considering making screening a permanent feature in schools.
In the Eastern Cape, education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said 31 schools were closed this week due to suspected Covid-19 cases.
In some of these, investigations were under way to confirm positive cases.
Pulumani said 26 cases were confirmed, with teachers making up the majority of them.
He said 48 cases were being investigated.
In Limpopo, education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said 30 schools could not reopen for various reasons, including a lack of water, sanitisers and classrooms.
Chuene referred questions about Covid-19 cases to the provincial health department.
She declined to divulge details about contracts awarded to suppliers, citing confidentiality.