Private schools in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands are concerned that borders, especially those living outside the country, may not be able to get back to school.
A source told The Witness that Hilton College and Michaelhouse could end up with almost no pupils if they can’t return. Some independent schools reopened on Wednesday, while the majority are expected to reopen next week.
On Wednesday night, education sector groups met with the Department of Basic Education, where they were told that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) was considering moving the reopening of schools to February 15, at which point they hope Covid-19 infections will have dropped significantly.
Government schools are supposed to open on January 27.
Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools CEO Paul Colditz said: “In principle, our position was that schools, based on the experiences from last year, are safer for children because they are under control and can be supervised better than being out in the streets. The indications are that things might have changed ...”
“We don’t have the medical expertise and are not quite sure about the readiness of all provinces to reopen and we don’t know how many teachers may be infected ...”
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said it has always called for schools to reopen once the second wave has passed.
“We need to make sure that before schools open the numbers are declining. We don’t open when the numbers are not declining,” said Mugwena Maluleke, Sadtu general secretary.
Maluleke also claimed the Basic Education had failed to ensure that all pupils would get a fair education, with many pupils unable to access online lessons.
The head of the Independent Schools Association of South Africa, Lebogang Montjane, said a number of full boarding schools had already reopened.
“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.”
Basil Manuel, the National Professional Teachers Union executive director, said: “We firmly believe that the health and safety of our members comes first.
“That is informed by various things. The readiness of schools as well as the science. The science is saying to us it’ll be mass murder if we open the schools. Teachers are highly infected. We support the postponement.”
Manuel said the department needed to show labour a proper opening plan before they go back to school.