Gauteng ready for 2021 academic year as pupils prepare to go back to class
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says his department is ready to commence with the 2021 academic year as more than 1.5 million pupils prepare to return to class on a rotational basis on Monday.
The reopening of schools on an earlier date was stalled by the resurgence of Covid-19 infections.
Gauteng had recorded 396,560 cumulative cases and 8,949 fatalities by Friday.
Premier David Makhura said the numbers had gone down but cautioned people against letting their guard down as schools reopen.
“We mustn’t think it is over. Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. We want to emphasise that we don’t want a third wave of infections. We have lost too many people,” he said.
Speaking during the weekly provincial command council briefing, experts said the infections numbers were “significantly lower” than a few weeks ago.
“But we are not yet down to the levels they were before the second wave started,” said public health medicine specialist Dr Mary Kawonga.
Experts attributed the declining number in infections to level 3 of the lockdown regulations.
Makhura, however, said ongoing parties and gatherings were a headache as they were superspreader events and had been key drivers of the second wave.
Commenting on the readiness of schools, Lesufi said it was all systems go as personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers, surface disinfectants, liquid soap, two face shields per teacher, cloth masks for pupils and teachers and stationery had been delivered.
“We are ready. Our schools are ready for teaching.”
The department is grappling with some issues, including the replacement of teachers, which was an ongoing problem. However, teacher assistants have been recruited at schools.
Crime and vandalism continued to be a problem. A total of 370 schools have been affected by vandalism since the inception of the Covid-19 regulations. Most schools have been repaired.
Two schools were recently burnt down, said Lesufi.
“Unfortunately, community members, including school governing body members, deliberately burnt down those schools. We have told them we are not going to repair those schools. We can’t take money from people who need new schools to repair a school where parents have deliberately burnt down the school,” he said.
He said the department had delivered 211 mobile classroom units to address space challenges.
“An additional 80 mobile classrooms have been delivered to schools with space to accommodate unplaced pupils, and 108 schools in 14 districts received funds to build an additional 408 classrooms.”
Acting COO for the health department Nomsa Mmope played down concerns around the possible theft of Covid-19 vaccines.
“In terms of surveillance, many people are worried about the stealing and theft that will happen. We have trained 400 health-care workers in the category of vaccinators, curators and data capturers, and there is further training planned. This is to ensure they are aware and alert that we don’t lose vaccines as they move from one place to another,” said Mmope.
“In terms of security, vaccines will be stored in the pharmacy which has security and is fitted with alarm systems. We have also involved our own internal department security to assist with ensuring vaccines are safe and don’t disappear.”