Schools reopening: teachers concerned about infection, compliance by children

  • As schools prepare to reopen on Monday, some Gauteng teachers have told News24 they fear being infected with Covid-19.
  • Teachers have expressed concern that children will not implement social distancing. 
  • Concern has also been raised about schools in poorer areas which may not have the means to implement the guidelines. 

  • Some Gauteng teachers have told News24 they fear being infected with Covid-19 as schools reopen on Monday, following a two-month closure.

    News24 visited two primary schools in Lenasia on Monday, where a number of teachers had reported for duty.

    Teachers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at that point their two schools had not been disinfected. However, they added plans were in the pipeline to ensure school buildings were disinfected as quickly as possible before Monday.

    They told News24 they were worried about their health and that of their pupils, and whether their charges would observe physical distancing.

    At Ennerdale Secondary School, workers from a disinfectant company could be seen spraying chemicals inside the school hall.

    Classrooms disinfected

    Extra classrooms were also disinfected to allow returning Grade 7 and 12 pupils to move around freely and observe physical distancing.

    Ennerdale school governing body chairperson Delphine Botha said she was happy with the progress at the school.

    "We managed to get a service provider quickly to work in our school before our children and teachers return to their classrooms. Our main concern is that we want to protect the lives of all our teachers and non-teaching staff and our children.

    "We want to comply with the regulations and we want our children to learn in a safe and hygienic environment. We will ensure that there is social distancing in classrooms," added Botha.

    She promised they would to continue monitor that there were adequate hand sanitisers and pupils wear their face masks.

    READ | Schools reopening: Challenges faced by special needs schools make it a difficult sector

    At General Smuts High School in Vereeniging, about 232 pupils are expected to report back to school.

    About 12 matriculants, who board in the school's hostels, are expected to report back on Sunday.

    The school, which has been disinfected, will use 12 classrooms to accommodate matriculants and is awaiting PPE and sanitisers for teachers and pupils.

    Both George Khoza Secondary and Forte High School in Dobsonville have been disinfected too.

    George Khoza has received PPE and sanitisers for teachers and pupils, while Forte was awaiting its protective material.

    George Khoza has 115 matric pupils and teachers and Forte High is expecting about 340 matriculants to return on Monday.

    Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said most schools have received PPE and sanitisers.

    Mabona promised by Monday, all schools would have received the required materials.


    In Tshwane, schools were also gearing up in preparation for the return of pupils. 

    Freda Mashaba, a Grade 7 teacher at Ga-Rankuwa Primary School, told News24 she was anxious but hopeful things would turn out for the best because at the end of the day teaching and learning had to resume at some point. 

    "As a teacher, it is so difficult. We don't know where to start. But fortunately, we have officials who will workshop us on how to go about it," the English and economic management science teacher said. 

    She added she was concerned about the time lost since schools closed in March and there would now be pressure to ensure pupils catch up in order for the academic year to be completed.

    Physical distancing

    Speaking about her fears regarding the behaviour of children inside the classroom, Mashaba said: "We are worried because kids are kids and they like to play, especially primary school ones, and so we just wonder how we are going to handle that because it is our responsibility. Because we are in loco parentis, we will try our level best."

    Mashaba, who is also a parent to a school-going child, said she was also concerned about safety.

    She described the pandemic as the biggest challenge she had ever been faced since starting her teaching career more than 10 years ago. 

    "This is the worst situation I've ever seen and it is life and death - and it doesn't choose anybody, whether you are young and old." 

    READ | Lockdown Level 3: Squabble over 'tender' disrupts delivery of PPEs to some Gauteng schools

    A Grade 7 teacher from a school in Pretoria East, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was ready to return to school, adding her school had taken all possible precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

    She added the school had been sanitised, and PPE was ordered for teachers and pupils.

    On the possibility of contracting the virus, the teacher was not worried about her own health, but rather of the family members that she comes into contact with.

    "I'm not nervous, I am young, I don't smoke, I am healthy. So, I'm not scared of getting the virus. I do have an elderly grandmother, so in that sense I don't want to be a carrier either, so it's a double-edged sword," she told News24.

    Schools in poorer districts

    Another teacher, from a private school in Pretoria, questioned why schools were being opened and not parts of the economy. 

    "If we are in a position to believe that it is safe enough to open a school with children, why can't we open the economy entirely and let everyone go back to work," she said.

    While she was not personally worried about the virus, she was concerned schools in poorer districts would not be able to implement strict protocols and measures to ensure the virus does not spread.

    A teacher from a primary school in Bronkhorstspruit echoed her sentiments, saying while his school had managed to put all possible measures in place, he was not sure if this would be possible for schools in poorer areas.

    "It's a massive risk. It would have been better if schools stayed closed. We can always redo the year, but you can't redo a life," he told News24.

    He said he was not worried about contracting the virus as he was young and healthy, but he was nervous about being a carrier and spreading the virus to those who were not as healthy.

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