'Opening schools to full capacity is insane': Teacher shares fear of looming third wave

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"The DBE needs to build more classrooms at existing schools, hire more educators and bring the ratio of teachers to pupils to 1:25". (Getty Images)
"The DBE needs to build more classrooms at existing schools, hire more educators and bring the ratio of teachers to pupils to 1:25". (Getty Images)

A "Desperate Educator" has written to Parent24, sharing fears of what might occur if schools were to resume full capacity classes amid the looming third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Read the teacher's letter below. 

I have taught in the foundation phase for over twenty-five years. Over the years, with all the changes in the curriculum, teaching is not the same.

The amount of administration that teachers have to deal with has taken away from our precious teaching time.

Allowing one teacher to forty learners has changed teaching into crowd control rather than teaching.

Lack of support and resources from the Department of Basic Education for the maintenance of our schools has resulted in a constant struggle to maintain a positive and safe environment for our learners.

This struggle is pre-Covid 19 and ongoing, and the pandemic has only highlighted these challenges that schools face in South Africa.

Also read: 'The injustice of forcing English schools to accept too many children': Teacher calls out the 'unfair divide'

'Correct social distancing in our classrooms has allowed me to teach again'

Despite lockdown challenges, working at fifty per cent due to correct social distancing in our classrooms has allowed me to teach again. Actually teach instead of acting as crowd control. 

I feel that I am able to do more with my learners even though I only see them every second day due to platooning. 

If the DBE brings back the learners to full capacity, our classrooms are not big enough to accommodate forty learners at the correct social distancing required. 

It is extremely stressful for educators to keep learners safe during this pandemic.

'We are heading towards winter'

We have been told to expect a third wave of Covid-19, and they want to open schools to full capacity. We are heading towards winter, which is a season that brings illness due to the cold weather and poor ventilation. 

Before the pandemic, the winter season brought about absenteeism from learners and educators alike. It's known as the flu season and disrupts teaching and learning.

Because of Covid-19, our flu season is a nightmare. 

Learners and teachers who display flu-like symptoms have to go into quarantine and be tested for possible Covid-19 infection to protect others.

As other teachers have mentioned, many educators and learners still come to school with these symptoms and endanger the lives of others.

Also see: Are children ready for full-capacity classes?

'No mention has been made of vaccinating teachers'

Our vaccination programme is way behind, and no mention has been made of vaccinating teachers as part of the frontline workers.

Opening schools to full capacity amid all of this is insane!

I fully understand that not coming to school every day is not easy for all involved.

These are not normal circumstances, we are experiencing a pandemic, and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

We need to practice social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising until this pandemic is over. That is the harsh reality.

'Opening schools fully now could cause an increase in Covid-19 infections'

We need to think out of the box and be flexible in our approach. This virus is unpredictable, and we need to be one step ahead of it.

If the South African government allows for super spreading events to happen, we could be facing a situation like India is experiencing. 

Opening schools fully now could cause an increase in Covid-19 infections, disrupting teaching and learning on a very large scale.

Our learners, especially in the foundation phase, need a lot of individual attention and support. We cannot do this with a teacher to pupil ratio of 1:40.

The DBE needs to build more classrooms at existing schools, hire more educators and bring the ratio of teachers to pupils to 1:25.

Must read: Education interrupted: Time to talk about the future of our children

'We need to see a light at the end of the tunnel'

This will help improve the quality of education and enable the teachers to help the learners catch up on the curriculum that has been missed due to Covid-19.

I live in the hope that we can turn an extremely bad situation into something positive and that the powers that be will listen to the educators, parents and learners.

These are trying times, and we are mentally and physically exhausted. We need to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

- Desperate Educator


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