Back to school: Panyaza Lesufi eyeing primary school cases, teacher audit

26 July 2021 - 15:21 By prega govender
The number of teachers in Gauteng reporting comorbidities and who have said they cannot come back to work is 4,000. The provincial department is doing an audit to determine how many of them have been vaccinated. Stock photo.
The number of teachers in Gauteng reporting comorbidities and who have said they cannot come back to work is 4,000. The provincial department is doing an audit to determine how many of them have been vaccinated. Stock photo.
Image: PAYLESSIMAGES/123RF

The Gauteng education department will be strictly monitoring the Covid-19 infection rate among grade 7 pupils to see whether it is possible for all high school pupils to return to school, says MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

As a result of social distancing requirements, the majority of primary and high schools are following a rotational timetable where pupils attend class on alternate days.

All primary school pupils are expected to return to class on a daily basis from August 2.

Lesufi said during a visit to Eureka High School in Springs and Laerskool Kommando in Brakpan, Ekurhuleni, on Monday — as schools reopened for the third term — that they would use the primary schools “as a model and check the numbers over the next three weeks”.

“If the numbers are not scary, then we will go back to the drawing board to try to find a way of bringing back all the high school learners.”

He said they would be meeting with Gauteng premier David Makhura on Tuesday “to determine and check the figures”.

“If the figures are not that bad, we really believe we can motivate that high school learners can come back. The reality is we have lost academic time and it’s devastating, I must be honest.”

“We can have a generation that might have missed school if we are not careful, so the sooner we bring everyone [back], the better,” said Lesufi.

He stressed, however, that it must be done within “the strict regulations of Covid”.

“We must not be reckless as well. The balance is delicate and it’s going to be very difficult for us to know whether we are succeeding or not.”

The Sunday Times reported that principals were informed during a meeting with Gauteng education department officials on Thursday that they should not “strictly enforce” the one-metre social distancing requirement when all primary school pupils returned on August 2.

According to a slide presentation made during the meeting, the national standard operating procedures “do not prescribe one-metre spacing but promote the principle of striving for one-metre distance where possible.”

But basic education minister Angie Motshekga told a media briefing on Saturday that they were working with the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on whether it was possible to reduce the social distancing from 1.5m to 1m.

Lesufi confirmed that they had received applications from 4,000 teachers indicating they had comorbidities and could not come back to work.

“We still have to do an audit of the 4,000 to see how many of them hadn’t vaccinated. We must check their health status and together with their doctors determine if indeed if it is genuine that they can come back or not. We are still doing that audit.”

He said it was a huge figure, adding: “There’s no way we can say [all] learners must come back and still have 4,000 educators staying at home. It’s not going to balance.”

This was the reason they requested Motshekga not to bring all primary school children back on Monday this week, he said.

“We said give us a week [to] monitor the situation, check our capacity, and then from August 2 we will determine whether everyone should come back or not.”

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