The Department of Education is still investigating possibilities for when more grades return to school on July 6, says Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education.
Motshekga said in a debate by the National Council of Provinces (NRP) on Thursday that the need to maintain a safe distance would create a challenge to accommodate the second group of pupils returning to the available space in schools.
“We are considering a platoon system whereby pupils come in for two hours, and the school is disinfected before the next group arrives. So far, it has been easy to manage a few grades (matric and grade 7’s), ”says Motshekga.
However, the department anticipates challenges when grades 10 to 11, grades R to 3 and gr. July 6 may attend school again. Special schools then reopened. The remaining grades will only return in August.
Motshekga says the education department’s resources are under great pressure, which could mean that schools’ capacity cannot be expanded.
“About 98% of matrics and gr. 7’s returned to school. It shows that parents support our decision that schools should reopen, ”says Motshekga.
Chris Klopper, CEO of the South African Teachers Union, believes a platoon system should be successfully implemented.
“Some schools have already returned to other grades and the system works very well. One day pupils are at school and teachers are giving schoolwork to pupils what they need to do at home the next day, ”he says.
However, Basil Manuel, chief executive of education union Naptosa, is less optimistic. He says schools that already have too many pupils will struggle.
The Education Department must also make sure that it has enough protective equipment and hand cleaners before July 6.
Motshekga says there are problems with teachers who stay away from work because of underlying illnesses without permission.
She says an ordinary doctor’s letter is not acceptable. Teachers will only qualify if they have undergone a full medical examination, with a doctor stating that the teacher’s illness is out of control, Motshekga says.
The department leaves it to principals to determine how pupils with underlying illnesses can be assisted.
Motshekga believes that the established health protocols work effectively.
“Most of the positive cases at schools are picked up by the school gates in the screening process. When someone’s fever is high, the person is sent to an isolation room in school. The health department is doing the follow-up work. “
Motshekga says the matric exam papers will not be adjusted because of Covid-19 because this certificate cannot lose its credibility. The examination was postponed by one month.
She said she worked hard to ensure that especially matric pupils kept up with the curriculum.
“There are schools that offer classes on Saturdays and Sundays. We are also working on plans so that the other grades will catch up. It can cause a backlog that can take up to three years to eradicate, ”says Motshekga.