Karabo Mokoena
2 minute read
3 May 2021
1:38 pm

‘Who will sanitise classrooms?’ DBE’s back-to-school plan worries parents

Karabo Mokoena

As the second term begins today and winter is upon us, the Department of Basic Education has proposed that schools reopen for all primary school learners.

Parents are concerned about the proposal to reopen primary schools for all pupils. Picture: Twitter @DBE_SA

In an official statement released yesterday, the Department of Basic Education has proposed reopening schools for all primary school learners.

Due to lost time incurred by primary school learners because of the rotational approach, the department has proposed a permanent reopening for this group of pupils.

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure is looking into this proposal and feedback will be provided soon.


No more education assistants

This comes in light of the conclusion of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative which hired 320,000 young people aged 18-35. They appointed education assistants or general education assistants. They had the responsibility to:

  • Maintain social distancing among learners
  • Sanitise pupils when they arrived at school in the morning
  • Prepare classrooms for lessons

With these contracts officially ending on 30 April 2021, the second terms will start with less manpower. The department says phase two of this initiative is “on the cards”/

Winter is coming

This is the greatest concern among parents. The biggest question for them is how the department proposes reopening as winter starts and with fewer people to enforce Covid-19 restrictions in schools.

One mom asked on the department’s Facebook page if her primary schoolgoing child is allowed in school with a cough.

A cough is a known symptom of Covid-19 and most schools, both public and private, recommend parents keep their children home when they show these symptoms. “It’s the right thing to do,” says a mom who fully agrees with this recommendation.

“There are some extremely negligent parents out there who will just send their kids to school without getting a doctor’s confirmation first if it’s just flu,” Tebogo Sihlangu said.

When Tebogo’s grade 7 daughter fell ill, she took her to the doctor to confirm that it was just the flu. She then took the letter to the school to confirm she just had flu and nothing else.

A flawed proposal?

Most parents are confused about the logic of this proposal. More kids in school during the winter season increases the likelihood of them infecting each other with the cold. Schools are a breeding ground for germs and catching a cold is inevitable for many kids.

“Next thing another kid gets sick then another one, then the cycle continues,” Pontsho Kgwefane says. If the tables were turned, moms would appreciate kids being left home as to not infect other kids, which disrupts learning for others.

“We need to be responsible community members and keep them home when ill,” Nadia Hattingh says.

This is why parents prefer the rotational system of learning. This manages how many children are on the school premises at one time.

It is unclear how schools will be able to observe Covid-19 protocols with teachers being expected to teach and be health professionals all at once.