Rural schools not ready to reopen, say principals

‘We have not received our monthly grants and are unsure as to how we will be able to honour our financial commitments.’

Amid discussions for the gradual reopening of schools from 1 June, principals from rural schools say they are not ready. They have argued a lot still needs to be done to prepare schools for the reopening.

Learners miss social interaction with their fellow learners. They long for interaction with their teachers and being able to participate in sport and other scholastic activities.

In most, if not all, of these rural schools there has been no teaching but for what has been made available online (to which not many have access) or via local radio stations like LigwalagwalaFM, national TV and other programmes which do not require internet access and data.

Teachers are frustrated, because clear and regular communication from the department of education has been lacking and because much of what has been promised has not been delivered.

The Lowvelder interviewed some school principals and this is what they had to say:

“We are in full support of the normalisation of the school terms, but our infrastructure, when considering the protocols for social distancing, cannot accommodate these protocols issued by the department. Classrooms are overcrowded or in short supply.”

“Returning now under these conditions and having to split classes, we will need extra teachers and many will have to also work in the afternoons. We are not near being ready for this. We are concerned about and uncertain of whether we will have to drop second-semester work in favour of the third and fourth-semester curriculum.”

“We have not received our monthly grants and are unsure as to how we will be able to honour our financial commitments. Will we have the necessary PPE in place when schools reopen? How will we secure the school and learners from interacting with the community during breaks when our school has no fencing? We hear about this and that that has been acquired by the department but we never see this at our schools.”

“Sanitisation between class changes, (which we consider necessary) will reduce teaching time. How does one manage kids during breaks? They swop masks on the way to and from school and at home with other family members. Contracts with suppliers to the school feeding programmes need to be renewed, because food parcels meant for us are hijacked and learners depend on this when at school. ”

“Government and the department have been talking a lot about many things, but on the ground, not much or not enough has been realised to instil within us teachers and principals the confidence required returning to schools. Also as a responsible principal, I do not have the authority to not open the school, should I feel that it is unsafe for both learners and teachers.”

The Lowvelder’s questions relating to the teachers’ concerns to the department’s spokesperson received a general release which did not address any of the questions. It must be noted though that, although principals have been undergoing orientation and training on the various protocols since Monday this week, many questions remain unanswered.

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