Education dept moves to allay virus fears, Motshekga to meet MECs

A limited amount of pupils return to school under strict hygiene conditions at Mimosa Foundation School, 8 June 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had received the report from unions and ‘it was in sync with the work already being done’.

The push-back in the decision to phase in lower grades is the same as before the Grade 7s and 12s returned to school – and it is based on fear, panic and anxiety, the department of basic education says.

But as long as there are plans being implemented to ensure safety, parents need not to worry, department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said on Wednesday.

Mhlanga was reacting to a released joint survey report by teacher unions on the readiness of schools to welcome more grades from 6 July.

According to the poll, which registered 5 293 responses, a sample reflecting around 23% of schools nationally – respondents of schools across several provinces anticipate they won’t be able to cope when more grades return.

ALSO READ: We won’t be able to cope when grades return, teachers say in alarming survey

The survey also highlights several issues still faced by schools: Inadequate sanitation compliance and a limited capacity to create viable timetables.

Other schools indicated they still faced water challenges, while others did not know how to use or refill water tanks provided.

They also fear the system of screening would also pose a challenge when other grades return.

But Mhlanga said the department had received the report from unions and it was in sync with the work already being done.

“We had already identified ourselves that there were certain schools that did not already have water in certain provinces. We told them (unions) that we meet with Rand Water and all our implementing agents every morning at 6:00 to get a report on the delivery to water.

“On top of that we told them the consortium doing the verification on the state of readiness, is also doing its work and will give us a report from their side,” he said.

The reopening of school has once again been in the spotlight as Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11 prepare to return.

Mhlanga said the unions made some recommendations which would be taken into account when Minister Angie Motshekga meets with MECs on Thursday.

He said the department understands the fear among parents, but assured them that work was being done to ensure that everyone would be safe.

“The push-back is always there, and is based on fear, anxiety and panic among parents, but we feel that if all safety measures are adhered to, with every person adhering to the safety requirements, we should be in a position to do the work we need to do.”

On 3 August, Grades 4, 5, 8 and 9 will be able to return, as well as first-year pupils in schools of skill, Grade 4s and 5s with Severe Intellectual Disabilities (SIDs) and pupils above the age of 13 in schools catering for autistic pupils.

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