POLL | How are you feeling about kids going back to school?

26 July 2021 - 14:00 By unathi nkanjeni
Schools opened on Monday with strict health protocols and other measures announced by the minister of basic education. File photo.
Schools opened on Monday with strict health protocols and other measures announced by the minister of basic education. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Monday saw the reopening of schools throughout SA after they were closed early in June, following the surge in Covid-19.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that schools would reopen, according to strict health protocols and other measures announced by basic education minister Angie Motshekga. 

Motshekga said the sector was ready to welcome pupils and catch up on lost time. 

“The sector continues to be committed, and at all times we are ready to maintain a balance between saving lives and livelihoods while fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

She said based on the information obtained from provinces, schools are ready to continue to work within the established Covid-19 health protocols, and to start resuming full school attendance in primary schools from August 2.

Motshekga said 517,000 school staff, including teachers, have been vaccinated – an 89% vaccination success rate.

“We still hope that educators not yet vaccinated will join the general population vaccination programmes that are under way,” she said. 

Vaccinating pupils

Motshekga said pupils will only be vaccinated when the national health department issues a directive and the department would need to get parental consent to facilitate the vaccination process. 

“If health says learners must be vaccinated and parents consent, we will work on the logistics. Even with the teachers, we work with mobilising and on the logistics, but it's not in our hands to decide on who gets vaccinated where and when.

“I'm aware that other countries are already beginning to consider the vaccination of young people. We will learn from them and see what we do as a country. We will do what we have to do, advised by the interministerial advisory committee,” said Motshekga. 

Concerns raised by teachers’ union

Addressing concerns that have been raised by teachers’ unions, such as Sadtu, the minister said the differentiated timetable had been disrupted and that pupils had lost about two years of learning since the pandemic started.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused serious disruptions in the sector and our plans have not always gone as we intended. This has, however, not deterred us from continuing to plan, as we are confident that at some point we will find a way to return to normal business,” she said.

Motshekga said pupils face a “catastrophic future” due to academic losses.

“The sector is bleeding from devastating learning losses. Every study that has been conducted shows that a generational catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes daily. Something had to be done and still needs to be done to arrest the academic losses.”