As the country moves into Level 1, teachers who were allowed to work from home due to comorbidities are set to return to schools yesterday. According to a statement by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) more than 22 500 teachers were granted approval for concessions countrywide.
But this concession was only applicable for the duration of levels 3 and 2. Now that the country has introduced level 1, teachers are required to return to school, and if they feel ill, they will have to follow normal sick leave protocols.
Speaking on the VOC Breakfast Beat show, Bronagh Hammond, the spokesperson at Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said in terms of the Employment Labour Council collective agreement with unions involvement everyone had agreed on the return of teachers with comorbidities by level 1.
“We knew the collective agreement which was signed by unions was that when the country moved to level 1 teachers would return to the classroom and because we didn’t have any clarity we told our teachers to come back but gave them until next week Monday to prepare,” detailed Hammond.
Hammond explained that even though some teachers with comorbidities are unhappy with the decision, it is safe for them to return.
“We do believe that our schools have the relevant health and safety protocols in place because ultimately level 1 does not mean we have to be complacent but of course it is time to return to school,” said Hammond.
However, she stipulated it is up to the principal to make a concession call.
“If there is a teacher with a high risk comorbidity, perhaps they can be working in the back office or somewhere else where they are not exposed to a large number of people. But the fact of the matter is that they need to report to work,” suggested Hammond.
Of the 22,000 teachers nationwide that applied, there are 2,240 teachers in the Western Cape that applied for the concession.
Hammond added there will still be some ‘staggered teaching’.
“If you have the floor space at your school to revert back to the teaching methods prior to the pandemic then by all means but if you are not able to ensure proper 1 meter distancing in the classroom then continue with the amended teaching protocols,” explained Hammond.
“We all just need to work together, we have to be cognizant that the virus exists but at the same time we have a mandate and that is to provide quality education,” concluded Hammond.
The new academic calendar has not yet been gazetted for 2021. However, Hammond said the DBE is looking at the 22 January 2021 for the return of all grades to the classroom.