Back to school: What parents and pupils need to know

In the event that you do decide to send your child to school you should monitor the situation carefully.
In the event that you do decide to send your child to school you should monitor the situation carefully.

So far, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is going ahead with reopening schools from 1 June. This is despite pushback from parents and teachers, and concerns about a rising infection rate. 

In preparation the DBE has rolled out sanitizers, masks, water and sanitation to schools in all provinces, and DBE Minister Angie Motshekga said that the department will be using "innovative methods about how we meet health, safety, social or physical distancing requirements".

In addition, a trimmed curriculum will be sent to school for planning purposes. She said that the department's focus was "on the core business of basic education which is curriculum implementation".

She has also explained that "all learners, educators and support staff will receive orientation and training at the start of the school reopening commencing with Grade 7 and 12". 

But what can parents, and students, expect over the coming weeks? 

Regulations, precautions taken

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga has said that not all schools will be ready by next week, but those that are will open. He has been hard at work preparing schools to reopen safely, and has been sharing images of these efforts on Twitter, providing insight into the precautions taken.

Here he shows how Garankuwa Primary School has tackled the issue of physical distancing in classrooms:

Here footage shows Zamuxolo Combined school in eMafakatini being sanitised ahead of pupil's arrival next week: 

He explained that the provincial departments have been tasked with the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring that schools have been sanitised and thoroughly cleaned before they reopen. 

The seriousness of the pandemic

Nonetheless, teachers and parents must take into consideration that despite the regulations, precautions taken, PPE worn and other health and safety measures put in place, the risk of infection remains a very real possibility, says Kyle Ball of Di Siena Attorneys.

He stresses that parents cannot discount the fact that these are children, who may not fully understand or appreciate the seriousness of the pandemic or the consequences of failing to abide by the measures put in place to protect them. 

The issue is amplified by the fact that certain learners are unruly and teachers, pre Covid-19, struggled to control ill-disciplined children, he said. 

Disciplinary measures?

"Should a learner manage to breach the measures put in place, this may increase the risk of infection between learners," he told Parent24.

We asked Curro schools what would happen if students did not follow the stringent health and safety measures put in place, which all learners and staff must adhere to in order to mitigate the risk of infection, and a spokesperson explained that "normal disciplinary measures will apply."

Back to school: What parents need to prepare for

A choice to return

It is pertinent to note that you as the parent have the choice whether your child returns to school or whether you keep them at home, Ball says. Should you decide to keep your child at home, you should continue to home school your child until they return to school.

The good news is that despite the reopening of schools, certain schools have made it possible for learners to continue with online distance learning.

"Should you be of the view that your child’s school is not adequately prepared, you should not send you child back to school," he told us.

In the event that you do decide to send your child to school you should monitor the situation carefully.

Must read:

Held accountable

While schools, institutions and individuals should be held accountable for breaching the regulations and the heath and safety measures, he said, it would be difficult to prove that your child was infected at school, unless you could directly tie the school’s negligence to an outbreak of the virus at the school. 

"In addition, we have seen that individuals were charged for attempted murder for intentionally spreading the virus," he revealed, adding that parent’s should bear this in mind if they know that their child is infected and decide to send him/her to school anyway. 

"If you decide to let your child return to school, it would be in your child’s best interest to show them the correct way to wear PPE and maintain social distancing so that they are not solely reliant on others to protect their safety while you are not around," he added. 

Back to school: What parents need to prepare for

Safe at home

Parent24 spoke to Cape Town GP Dr Bosch who told us that it is important that all of those safety measures are brought back home and applied at home, and especially if the student is going to be around anyone with a risk factor.

She recommends the following steps be taken by children returning from school each time they enter the home:

Remove shoes at the door and leave them outside, or even designate a pair of shoes as 'outside shoes' if possible. 

Leave school bags at the door. 

Safely remove masks, which means taking them off without touching the outside of the mask and then immediately washing hands. 

Wash hands for 20 seconds before touching anyone or anything in the home.

Remove school uniform and put it in to be washed, and change into clean new clothes.

Dr Bosch recommends designating a 'hot zone' in the home, where this change over can take place, and which can be sanitised regularly.

She suggests wiping down stationary and devices like iPads that come home from school. 

Back to school: What parents need to prepare for

Vectors of infection

She says it is important to note that every part of oneself, from clothing to schoolbags, are all things that can be vectors of infection. Hygiene must be high on your priority list and everyone must be alert to this at all times, she says.

If your child gets sick, whether it is with the coronavirus or another illness, make sure the grandparents or at-risk family members are not exposed to the sick child at any point at all. 

Dr Bosch recommends families have a "high index of suspicion" and do everything they can to safeguard at-risk family members.  

What can pupils expect at school?

This video by Curro details some of the measures put in place. Watch below or on YouTube:

How are you preparing for the return to school?

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