Covid-19: Cabinet to announce end to rotational classes at schools, as DA approaches court

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Pupils at Princess High School in Roodepoort.
Pupils at Princess High School in Roodepoort.
Gallo Images/Papi Morake
  • The DA has filed papers in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to force the basic education department to end rotational classes at schools.
  • But the department says it has already made the proposal to the National Coronavirus Command Council.
  • It says Cabinet will announce the full return of pupils to classrooms next week.

Cabinet is expected to announce the ending of the rotational school learning system, which will allow the return of all pupils to classrooms. 

This is after Department of Basic Education senior officials met with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Thursday and tabled the proposal. 

Currently, over 80% of South African schools are still operating on a rotational basis, where each child only attends school half of the time, on alternate days or weeks.

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The proposal was well received, according to Basic Education Director-General Mathanzima Mweli.

Addressing a Basic Education Lekgotla at Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Mweli said:

Our presentation was made last Thursday to the NCCC. The proposal of returning of all learners, which was supported by the ministerial advisory committee, has been well received and we are waiting for cabinet to pronounce.

On Wednesday, the DA filed papers in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to compel the department to end rotational classes immediately. The rotational system was introduced as an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 in schools. 

The department has called the DA's move "silly".

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said that the department was actually in favour of pupils going back to class full-time.  

"There is no need for a court order. They (DA) are being silly," he said.

The DA said this "defies belief and strains sanity that some 80% of South African schoolchildren are still being denied half their schooling, on the (undeniably false) assumption that this is somehow beneficial to them or to society as a whole, on a balance of risks".

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In a statement, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the rotational system violated children's Constitutional rights to basic education, to basic nutrition, and for children’s best interests to be paramount in all matters concerning them, and to equality.

"The rotational schooling is being implemented in order to satisfy the government’s social distancing rule in classrooms, which is one metre for primary school children and one-and-a-half metres for high school children. The rule is plainly unconstitutional."

The party said that, under the rotational model, schoolchildren’s access to basic education was being severely stunted, which would negatively impact the rest of their lives.

"South African schoolchildren in no-fee schools have lost over half of their normal school days since the start of the pandemic and have learnt less than half of what they would normally learn. (More than 70% of South African schools are no-fee), Steenhuisen said,

He also claimed that the long-term effects on children would be lower educational achievements, lower earnings, higher unemployment, and them being more likely to be in lower skilled occupations in adulthood.

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