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Public pressure caused about-turn on phasing in Grade R: Prof

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For many within the education fraternity, the haphazardness within the education department and its management is a cause for concern. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga briefed the media yesterday on the updated approach by the department to re-introduce learners to school. Motshekga also announced since the return of the Grade 7 and 12 learners on 8th June, 2 740 teachers were infected by the virus. In the same period, 1 260 learners were infected by the virus.

Research Chair in Transformation and the Professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University, Professor Aslam Fataar said the phased reopening of schools is highly impacted by several contending parties.

“The government wants to save the school year but they also have to respond to the resilience of the parents and teachers and that is why we find ourselves in such a see-saw state,” explained Fataar.

“The Minister cannot be seen as kowtowing and she presents a very rational picture as to why they are down scaling the implementation of scholars into the classroom. But at the root of it all, is the public pressure that is bubbling up,” said Fataar.

However, aggrieved teachers, parents and students with current coronavirus concerns affiliated to Schotsche Kloof Primary School gathered at the foot of Bo-Kaap Monday morning in protest of the premature reopening of learning institutions amid the peak of the global pandemic in the country.

The principal at the school for the past six years, Faadil Kamish said he can’t fathom why the DBE thinks that grade R learners are mentally fit to attend school.

“How sure are we that six year-olds are going to adhere to covid-19 safety protocols. I can’t see them donning their masks all day and if authorities used their common sense then they would be able to see it too. Putting these Grade R learners into the classroom can be described as a death sentence,” stated Kamish.

However, Fataar said there is public pressure from the middle-class sections in our community to bring younger children back on the basis of the mobilizing of scientific positions by, especially the South African Paediatric Association (Sapa).

“Sapa has been extremely cavalier for a medical association to begin to argue that children are less infectious, children don’t need social distancing, but what we see is these are middle class parents that can afford to social distance, and that their private schools are fully equipped to ensure covid-19 protocols are followed,” said Fataar.

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Fataar said by Sunday the DBE realized that public schools would not be ready to reintroduce Grade Rs.

“Due to public pressure the department has stated that Grade Rs don’t have to come back to school if they’re not ready but they have to be phased in by the end of July,” stated Fataar.

Meanwhile, Kamish hoped that the government would use their common sense and extend the phasing-in period for as long as need be.

“We hope that the national government comes to their senses and postpone the introduction of learners to a later date. I suggest the beginning of August when our winter season has fully passed,” protested Kamish.

Kamish encouraged his colleagues at other institutions to keep the energy.

“I implore principals, teachers, parents from various schools around the metro to continue demonstrating and protesting against these heinous ideas that the department puts forth involve your governing bodies and maybe then we will see results at the end of the day,” stated Kamish.

Fataar ended by urging those within the education association to provide innovative ways for learning in these unprecedented times.

“There is a big problem about learning loss that will particularly affect our children in the working class areas, so I suggest that the entire education fraternity come together to find alternative ways to educate their children in respect of schools not being able to secure their health and safety,” added Fataar.

VOC


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