Parents are in full support of the Department of Basic Education’s decision to delay the reopening of schools until Monday February 15.
Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule made the announcement on Friday, following advice from the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
The delay was in the interests of pupils’ and teachers’ safety, she said. Many teachers had fallen ill with Covid-19 over the festive period.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday January 11 that the NCCC predicted the second wave of Covid-19 infections would ease off by mid February.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) spokesman Basil Manuel said that by Saturday January 9, nearly 2000 teachers had died of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
In a statement on Thursday January 14, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, said the Western Cape had so far recorded 251 107 Covid-19 cases and 8 804 deaths. Nationally, there were 1 296 806 cases and 35 852 deaths.
Ms Mhaule said school fees for January should still be paid, as the academic year had started. Parents unable to pay should approach the school, she said.
If things did not improve, e-learning would be used to ensure that education continued, she said.
“What is required of all of us now is to be vigilant and strict adherence to protocol. We must work together. We will conquer this virus together.”
Matakanye Matakanya, general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, said principals backed the decision because a lot of schools had no clean running water, masks, sanitiser and physical-distancing protocols, but many questions still needed answers.
“We asked what they are going to use the extra three weeks for. Also, last year they said they delayed the opening of schools because it was winter and pupils were safer at home instead of coming out in the cold wet weather which made it more risky to get the virus, but now we are in summer, so what is the excuse now? We need proper information.”
Mom of three, Aisha Ismail, from Sherwood Park, said that while she had faith in her children’s schools to comply with Covid-19 safety regulations, she felt that right now it was safer for pupils to stay at home.
“Parents must also realise that teachers too were just thrown into this. They have no plan, no guide, but they are trying their best and parents need to consider that,” she said.
Magmoeda Dramat, mom of three from Bonteheuwel, also agreed with the decision to delay the reopening but was worried about children being left alone at home while parents were at work.
“My kids are in grades 7 and 8 this year, both important years for them, and they are excited to end primary school and start high school, so the delay means that their year will be delayed, but I understand that we have to abide by the laws of the country.”
Charnelle Hector, a teacher at Belmor Primary School in Hanover Park, said she felt torn between keeping her pupils safe and giving them a sound education.
“My learners are always my first priority, and the backlog as a result of this pandemic is distressing. At this stage, I am faltering between two places: attempting to bridge the gap and also the safety of all role players involved.”