The Department of Education is ready to allow only pupils of a few grades to return to school on Monday, education unions say, pointing out that many schools are not yet ready to reopen safely.
The Department of Basic Education announced on Thursday that only pupils in Gr. R, art. 6 and gr. 11 Monday will return to school.
Initially, pupils in Gr. 1 to gr. 3 and gr. 10 also return.
The decision affects all provinces. The other grades will be phased in in July, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in a statement.
The decision was made after the Education Minister’s Council had several reports on the readiness of schools.
The education union Naptosa, which earlier found in a survey many schools had not yet received the necessary protective equipment, welcomed the minister’s announcement on inquiry.
However, Naptosa CEO Basil Manuel says they are still investigating whether schools have enough protective equipment for pupils who will attend school.
“The department was under pressure to delay the return of some grades, but the minister deserves praise for the decision. She said from the beginning that she will not push for reopening if the schools are not ready, ”says Manuel.
Chris Klopper, head of the South African Teachers Union (SAOU), which said in a separate opinion poll that 60% of staff members think other grades should not return to school, says the latest delay could be attributed to schools in provinces such as the Eastern Cape is not ready.
“However, the minister’s announcement does not stop schools that are ready to take more grades, or have already done so, to give a notice to the education department that they will be departing,” says Klopper.
According to the SAOU’s latest poll, in which about 7,200 school staff members participated, most respondents said they were concerned about teachers being exposed to schools. A total of 21% of respondents said one of their co-workers had tested positive for Covid-19.
“It is a difficult balance to be found, because the safety of teachers must be weighed against the importance of the education system and the fact that schools must be open to paying the salaries of 150,000 teachers who have governing body positions,” says Klopper .
According to the Education Department statement, Motshekga and they will hold a media conference over the weekend to give more details about reopening schools.