The regular closure of schools due to Covid-19 cases is disruptive, but education organizations say schools can try to manage it so they don’t have to completely shut down and lose teaching time.
More and more confirmed cases occur among pupils and teachers.
The National Department of Education will announce the figures in each province later on Thursday and will be done regularly, according to spokeswoman Elijah Mahlanga
The times when the schools are closed vary from two days to a week.
According to the Department of Education’s document on standard operating procedures for schools, a school does not necessarily have to close if someone tests positive. It should only be considered if the state’s health officials recommend it.
“The temporary closure of a school is a possible strategy to prevent or combat the spread of the virus in the school community,” the document states.
However, school administrators cannot decide on this themselves and must follow the department’s procedures and obtain guidance from officials.
Paul Colditz, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, emphasizes that while it is disruptive to close a school, the decision is not made at the school level.
“It is in the hands of the provincial education department and must be taken in consultation with the health department. So there is not much that a school can do to prevent closure if it is needed. ”
Colditz says schools do have control over the prevention of spread, because the virus does not necessarily happen on the school premises, but is brought in from the outside.
“That is why schools can try to prevent closure and disruption by following and applying the transfer prevention protocols,” he explains.
“This means that movement on the school premises should be restricted as much as possible. If there is movement, such as teachers who have to switch classes, set up protocols and try to keep track of where people have moved on the school grounds and who they have been in contact with.
Colditz also advises schools to strictly adhere to the hygiene protocol, remain vigilant, and take serious steps to continually educate and instill safety procedures.
“If these protocols are meticulously applied, schools do not necessarily have to include the whole. Only those people who have had contact, and potentially contaminated surfaces and spaces, need to be disinfected and temporarily avoided.
Basil Manuel, chief executive of education union Naptosa, says it goes without saying that teachers and pupils will contract the virus as they move into the community, but the union is still worried about the sporadic closure of schools and the number of cases.
“Is it sustainable if 180 schools have to close one day, 240 the next day, and so on? These are the national figures we have collected so far. Of course, children miss school. ”
Although many schools continue online when the school closes, Manuel says, it may not be the new general way of teaching.
“Online learning is difficult because most pupils do not have access to it. Sometimes these are issues with data, other times with devices. ”
He says the solution to this is not obvious and he believes the problem will worsen when other pupils return.
“The loss of teaching time can be managed at the moment, because there are other teachers who can help, but when the next group of pupils return, there are no extra teachers.
“We endorse the view that schools are the best place for children to be. But if the right amount and quality protective equipment (PPE) is not there, you will have more infections at school, ”says Manuel.
“I am very reluctant to say that we are ready for the next group of pupils, because there are still schools that do not have the right amount of PPE. Now many degrees are about to return. How are we going to manage it? I don’t think provinces are going to be ready. ”