Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has appealed to parents of pupils in grades R to 7 to return their children to school on a full-time basis in July despite the third wave of Covid-19 infections sweeping the country.
Motshekga on Tuesday said the rotation system that pupils in public schools were following to attend classes was simply not working.
She said the system was starting to have long-term implications for the educational development of pupils, particularly those in primary schools.
“When we say we want children to go back to school on 26 July 2021, it’s really to protect the little that we can protect under very difficult conditions,” Motshekga said.
She was speaking at a dialogue in Pretoria hosted by the Department of Basic Education on teacher appreciation and the youth employment initiative.
There have been growing calls for the government to temporarily halt contact classes at schools amid concerns over the third wave of coronavirus infections in South Africa.
EFF leader Julius Malema last week gave Motshekga seven days to immediately close schools or his party would take matters into their own hands.
However, Motshekga maintained that schools remain the safest places for pupils to be protected from the virus.
She said schools were preparing to receive pupils on 26 July in line with the government’s gazetted regulations on the daily attendance of children in grades R to 7. The minister said this was because these pupils required the most attention.
“This rotational system is not working for us and it really worries me if we are going to erode the foundations for learning. We will never get it right. There is no way we can lose these kids, even the primary school kids because that’s the end,” she said.
Motshekga said the pandemic had eroded some of the gains the basic education sector had made over the years.
“The 12 years has been properly worked out, it’s not accidental that it’s 12 years of teaching. We’ve put everything in the 12 years, we’ve lost almost a year last year, we’ve lost almost six months and we can’t continue to lose time.”
The minister said she understood that some parents were anxious about the traditional timetabling model. But she said if parents felt the government was putting their children in harm’s way, then they should not return to school.
“Stay with your child [and] do what you think should happen to your child. But allow us to open the space for parents who need that… Let’s agree, if you have a plan for your child not to be playing in the streets at 9am, keep your child.
“We are saying to parents who need us to look after their kids [and] who want to work with us to protect learning and teaching time, we will go out of our way to make sure that they’re safe.
“If you visit our schools, those are the safest places and we will keep them safe. But please, let’s protect the little that we can.”