Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says schools are ready for learners’ full-time return to classrooms from Monday. She says the scrapping of the rotational timetable, which was implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, had already been gazetted.
The move comes after a Cabinet decision at the end of last month to end rotational learning with immediate effect and to remove social distancing measures.
Cabinet’s announcement followed a meeting between the President’s Co-ordinating Council and the National Coronavirus Command Council.
Addressing the media in Pretoria on Sunday, Motshekga outlined the schools’ immediate priorities.
“The first step towards addressing the crisis of learning is to prevent further disruptions in schools and prevent other learning losses when dealing with health and safety issues in our schools. The second step will be to introduce measures to catch-up on the time lost as well as the teaching time lost. We urge parents and all our stakeholders in the sector, to support efforts to ensure that education continues without any further delay.”
Motshekga says that learners will still be required to wear their masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
“So that kids whilst they sit next to each other they must not remove masks, there must still be the washing of hands, there must be regular sanitising, so all those things we have put in place to say that now that we have removed the social distancing what do we have in place and how do we manage that and that we have worked it out through the guidance and support of teachers.”
Education Expert, Professor Sarah Gravett, has welcomed the announcement that schools are prepared for learners’ full-time return to classrooms from today.
Gravett says some challenges remain.
“I do think it is great news that all our children are back to school every day. The last two years have been very difficult and devastating for learning, particularly, in the early years of schooling where it is very clear that there was research conducted that there was significant learning loss. So it is definitely good news but the issues that were mentioned in terms of overcrowding, difficulties with infrastructure, of course, remains a concern.”
The Northern Cape Department of Education says it’s ready to welcome all learners at their schools across five districts.
The department says preparation required for the return of learners has been undertaken. Departmental spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe says compulsory screening will continue.
“At this stage, it’s all systems go and no school has indicated that they will not be able to return to the normal timetabling model. Our district offices will nevertheless monitor and access the return of all learners tomorrow (Monday) as well as indicate if any major changes are reported. Pharmaceutical interventions will remain in place in all schools. Compulsory screening will continue and the implementation of SOP will be closely monitored.”
Health Department raises concerns over reopening of schools
The Health Department says there has been a slight increase of new COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Free State in the last seven days.
New infections in Gauteng increased by 17% while Mpumalanga and the Free state recorded 17% and 20% increases respectively.
Briefing the media on Friday morning, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the overall infections have, however, reached a plateau, meaning that there’s no serious decline and no worrying rise in infections.
Phaahla says the rise in new infections in these provinces can be attributed to the opening of schools.
“This plateau and the slowing down in the rate of new infections can be linked to the opening of schools. In support of this, is also the observation that in the last 14 days we have witnessed more infections amongst the below 20 years, that is the school-going age. Some colleagues in GP practices have also reported similar observations of seeing more of school-going age, below 19 years testing positive in bigger numbers,” says Phaahla.
Source: SABC News