After a four hour meeting on Thursday, the Basic Education Department announced that it has revised its decision to allow almost 6 million students back to school from next week. This decision was made in light of the rising number of COVID-19 infections in the country. In a statement released, the department said only grades R, 6 and 11 would be permitted back in class following consultations with the Council of Education Ministers. This decision affects schools across South Africa.
Western Cape MEC for Education, Debbie Schafer agreed with the stance taken by the national Minister of Education, Angie Motshegka.
“We welcome the differentiated approach to phasing in grades that has provided the option for schools to choose a slower phasing in method should they need to do so, however schools that are ready to accept more grades other than that stipulated may do so at their own discretion,” stated Schaffer.
Speaking to VOC, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, Terence Khala stated the decision was reached out of consultations with various role players in the education sector.
“Conversations with unions, student governing body associations and parent associations happened prior to the choice to ensure that our decisions are informed and that is what lead us to believe it will be in everyone’s best interest to have a slower paced phasing in approach,” stated Khala.
Khala added consultations were also drawn out of each province including that of the Western Cape.
“This decision was welcomed by the collective council of education which does include Debbie Schaffer,” said Khala.
Khala further explained that lessons are set to work on a rational basis come the 6th July when more students are introduced back into the classroom.
However, for many teachers, parents and students anxieties are still running high about the return to school amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of demonstrators gathered outside the Kensington high school on Friday to express their worries of sending children ‘to their grave’.
A concerned parent, Gaironesa Abrahams, who has been protesting for the past week said she would protest until the reopening of schools is halted.
“I don’t understand why children can’t be sent back to school once the peak has passed, what’s the point if schools are being contaminated every other day and lessons are interrupted. I don’t the education department has realized what a ripple effect this virus will have if grand parents who are the sole providers to these kids become infected,” said Abrahams.
Meanwhile, a concerned grandparent, Frederick Jansen said the government is making decisions haphazardly without any thought of the consequence.
“The department of education are making decisions on a hit and miss basis and are risking the lives of teachers and students alike and for what, surely the academic year can be picked up again afresh next year I am sure no parent or student would mind saving their life rather than their schooling,” expressed Jansen.
The Minister will host a media briefing at the weekend to elaborate on the revised plans with the goal of phasing in the remaining grades to allow our Schools to reach normality by August 2020.