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5 things you need to know about SA's plan for schools amid Covid-19 third wave

21 June 2021 - 12:00 By unathi nkanjeni
Concerns about the safety of schools, teachers and Covid-19 vaccines continue to spark debate as cases increase. Stock photo.
Concerns about the safety of schools, teachers and Covid-19 vaccines continue to spark debate as cases increase. Stock photo.

Concerns regarding the safety of schools, teachers and Covid-19 vaccines continue to grow as cases increase.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga said at the weekend that vaccine rollout for teachers will take place from Wednesday and run until July 8. 

Plans for the rollout come amid calls for the basic education department to close schools due to the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.

Here is what you need to know:

More than 500,000 teachers will be vaccinated by July 8

Motshekga said, in the next few weeks, 582,000 people will be vaccinated. 

She said the vaccination programme will include staff who transport children to and from schools, staff who support the school feeding scheme, staff who do remote learning programmes (TV and radio), staff of teacher unions, and other contracted staff who provide security, cleaning and other functions at schools.

She said vaccination was voluntary but “highly recommended so that everybody can be protected”.

“For the next two weeks, we make the clarion call to our school communities to 'drop all and vaccinate'. For us to successfully complete this programme, we will need to keep schools open,” said Motshekga. 

“Any disruptions would be undesirable. The vaccination of everybody in the sector is an opportunity to normalise schooling and begin the process of mitigating the impact of Covid-19.”

Schools will remain open 

Motshekga said schools would remain open and the decision was made based on advice from the medical fraternity and public health experts. 

She said school closures would be dealt with on a school-by-school basis.

“We believe that schools must remain open and in saying so we are not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rising infections. The position is that we continue to handle Covid-19 cases according to the differentiated strategy, on a province by province, school-by-school basis,” said Motshekga. 

While there were disruptions in the sector, the majority of schools remained fairly stable. 

About 100 schools have been disrupted out of more than 25,500 schools in the sector. Motshekga stressed that 25,400 schools were stable.

Vow to shut down schools

On Sunday, the Educators Union of SA vowed that it would physically shut down schools if the department did not close them.

Speaking on eNCA, the union's spokesperson Kabelo Mahlobogwane said Motshekga's decision to keep schools open demonstrated that she does not care about the lives of teachers and pupils. 

Mahlobogwane said the union would on Monday call for a withdrawal of labour from teachers, and if schools were still open by the end of the week, the union would shut them down. 

“We are going to physically shut down schools, working with community organisations we've consulted with. We are giving the minister one week,” he said.

Class rotation is a 'disaster' for kids, say experts

Sunday Times reported that education experts have warned against the rotational attendance of pupils, saying it is “a disaster that is going to have long-term, significant negative consequences for children”.

According to the government gazette, primary school pupils, as well as all pupils with special education needs, will return to school from July 26 with “teachers rotating between lessons”. 

Stellenbosch University researcher Nic Spaull told the Sunday Times that rotational timetabling would result in learning losses. 

“If the department doesn't do something, we could potentially have a lost generation on our hands,” he said.

EFF's demands

Earlier this month, EFF leader Julius Malema said schools should be closed to protect pupils at all costs, amid the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

“Schools must close with immediate effect because our children are going to die,” said Malema. 

“We give the minister seven days to close schools because we will not allow our children to die. Private schools must lead this campaign because they have the facilities to teach online. Let our children be safe.”