Covid-19: If NCCC keeps schools closed, independent schools will go online - association

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  • Isasa head Lebogang Montjane has said the basic education department has indicated that the NCCC wants schools to open later than 27 January.
  • Montjane has said if such a recommendation affects independent schools, they will recommend that their teaching goes online.
  • A number of Isasa's private schools have reopened but are not at full capacity.

Independent school associations are in a catch-22 situation as it becomes apparent that schools are likely to stay closed until February amid the second Covid-19 wave in the country.

According to Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) executive director Lebogang Montjane, several bodies met with Department of Basic Education director-general Mweli Mathanzima on Tuesday. Montjane said Mathanzima indicated that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) was considering postponing the reopening of schools.

Speaking to News24 during a Zoom meeting on Thursday, Montjane said while the association was still in consultation with the department, it was faced with a difficulty due to the nature of independent schools. 

READ Covid-19: What should SA do about reopening schools? Experts, unions have their say

Montjane said coastal schools were meant to reopen later, although some in KwaZulu-Natal did, but not entirely. 

He said those schools under the umbrella body which had opened, had about 75% capacity.

"Our schools were meant to open on 13 January. We then indicated to our membership, at the request of our members, that maybe they should move their opening day to 18. However, our boarding schools – and we have got several full boarding schools – there are no day students. Those schools are opened.

"So, the difficulty for us is that if there is a call for the closure of schools or the postponement of the opening, the difficulty for our full boarding schools, [is that] forcing them to close may be more dangerous than letting them remain open."

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Montjane said:

The kids are all at school and the teachers are all on the same campus so you can control who comes in and out. If you ask them to close and they have reopened, well guess what, they are going home and that's the danger and then they are more exposed at home than they were at school.

The NCCC has recommended a postponement of two weeks for the reopening, Montjane said. 

Public schools were meant to open on 25 January for teachers and on 27 January for pupils.

Montjane said Isasa's management would meet on Thursday to make a decision.

He added that there were a lot of complexities around the second wave and the new variant and how it affected younger people but believed that, like last year, its schools would be able to effectively manage the virus.

"I think nothing would really change but obviously we would have to be far more stringent about the screening on a daily basis, mask wearing, hand sanitising, something that was already happening anyway," Montjane said. 

Despite the confusion, for now, the association anticipated that it would embark on hybrid teaching and learning, like it did last year during the first wave. 

Montjane said: 

If government says we have to postpone the reopening of schools, Isasa's recommendation is that our members must open, but remotely.

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