IN PICTURES | KZN welcomes more than 2.8 million pupils back to school

24 August 2020 - 14:23 By LWANDILE BHENGU

KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Kwazi Mshengu says the province is not facing a teaching crisis, despite more than 6,000 applications by educators to stay at home.

“We are not really under crisis in terms of replacing those teachers. Others have agreed to come and teach their lessons and go back home. For those who will be at home full-time, other educators will be able to take over their subjects so we don’t need a substitute teacher,” said Mshengu.

Mshengu was addressing the media at Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi, south of Durban, on Monday. He was there to inspect the school's readiness as the province geared up to welcome back 2.8 million students who returned to 6,148 schools in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday.

Mshengu said of the 6,000 applications the department had received from teachers with underlying health issues, 4,479 have been granted permission while the rest were sent to the health inspector for decisions.

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Pupils wore their masks as they returned to school in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal.
Pupils wore their masks as they returned to school in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

“Regarding the applications we have received, it’s not like they are not at school. They are at school waiting for the final decisions to be made on their applications. The narrative that they have not been in school, which I heard some members of the opposition pushing, is not true,” he said.

At Zwelibanzi High, Mshengu found there was a 100% attendance among grade 11 and 12 pupils and only two teachers were absent, with valid reasons. He said the only issue at the school was space to practise social distancing.

“The only problem we have identified is social distancing because of the unavailability of space in the school. There is not much space to assist with mobile classrooms. As a result, the school has adopted a differentiated timetable. Some grades come once a week only because enrolment is high,” he said.

Anxiety and excitement filled grade 11 pupil Anele Ngcobo as she returned to Zwelibanzi High after a five-month break.

“I am anxious but happy to be back at school. We aren’t used to this new normal but we will learn. We are a bit scared we might get the virus and get sick, but we are hoping we will continue learning so we can progress to another grade,” said Ngcobo. “As we opened today I saw a lot of  children were not as scared as I am. I really want to fulfil my dreams but at the same time I am scared,” she said.

The provincial education department said it had received more than 200 applications for homeschooling, 160 of which were approved.

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