School’s out, parents say

Schools are set to reopen for Grade 7s and 12s on Monday June 1.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says school will start to reopen next week, but some Cape Flats parents have vowed to keep their children home, saying it’s still too risky with the Covid-19 crisis far from over.

The schools would reopen on Monday for Grades 7 and matrics, the minister said on Tuesday May 19, following approval from the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet.

Other grades would be phased in, in due course. Teachers reported back to school on Monday.

All pupils and teachers will have to wear masks throughout the day and sanitise their hands regularly.

Ms Motshekga said the revised school calendar would be gazetted soon. The government has yet to give dates for the opening of special schools and preschools.

“The regulations for level 3 are being finalised, and we believe there will be a solution to this matter very soon,” Ms Motshekga said.

“We understand that early childhood development centres also provide the necessary caring and feeding services for children from families. Due and careful consideration will be made to ensure that we maintain the delicate balance between allowing ECDs to operate, alongside the safety and health of the children and their caregivers. We are working together with the Department of Social Development on this matter as it straddles both departments at the moment.”

Aisha Ismail, from Manenberg, said that unless the department had a system she was comfortable with she would not be sending her children to school.

“I will have to homeschool my children, I don’t have a choice, but I am not comfortable with sending my children to school. There is no plan in place; how can I send my children to school during a pandemic? If they have to repeat the year, it’s nothing as long as their safety is taken care of.”

Caryn Jacobs, from Lansdowne, said she would not be sending her child to school because South Africa had yet to reach its infection peak and it was too risky to send pupils back to school.

“I will homeschool my child, and I am willing to de-register her, but I will not send her back to school. Children are unhygienic, and they do not understand the concept of hygiene. How will a teacher make sure that 40 children are staying apart and staying hygienic all the time?”

Education MEC, Debbie Schäfer said parents could be assured that schools would be cleaned thoroughly. Each pupil and staff member would get two masks and all public schools would get a hygiene pack with hand sanitiser and liquid soap, cleaning materials and non-contact digital thermometers.

Pupils with comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes and TB, could be homeschooled for the next few months or until restrictions were lifted.

There would be ample space for classes to maintain 1.5m of physical distancing between pupils during the first phase of the school opening, she said but admitted that would become more difficult as more pupils returned.

“We have no intention of relaxing the physical distancing requirement at schools. When this maximum number is exceeded in the phased return, we are currently determining which option will be implemented – be it grades attending class on alternate days, use of school halls as classrooms, or any of the many helpful proposals we have received from officials and the public alike. But we will not reduce or remove the physical distancing requirement,” she said.

Ms Schäfer said the Department of Basic Education had trimmed the curriculum to ensure essential concepts needed for progression to the next grade were taught. However, that did not apply to matrics who would still have to learn the entire curriculum. Catch-up plans would be implemented, she said.