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Change to grades returning to school

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Parents breath a sigh of relief after it was announced not all grades will return to school on Monday.

MANY parents in the Northern Cape breathed a sigh of relief when the surprise announcement came through on Thursday afternoon that only grades R, 6 and 11 will be returning to school on Monday.

The Department of Basic Education made the announcement after hosting the Council of Education Ministers yesterday, stating that this would apply to all provinces, including the Northern Cape.

“After careful consideration of all the reports by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), only Grade R, 6 and 11 will return to school on Monday.”

The department said the reports provided a broad review of all the developments relating to the phased approach to the return of pupils to school.

According to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, the other grades will be phased in during the month of July in a differentiated approach within the stipulated time frames as per the gazette of June 29.

Adjust

“We will adjust the reopening phases based on the risk-adjusted strategy, which is a considered attempt to balance our approach to school reopening taking into account all factors that affect the work we do. We are guided in this by an observation of the rising numbers of community transmissions throughout the country. We recognise that schools are based in communities and pupils live in the same affected communities and therefore a careful balancing act must be maintained,” she said.

Motshekga is expected to host a media briefing at the weekend to elaborate on the revised plans with the goal of phasing in the remaining grades to allow schools to reach normality by August.

Many Northern Cape parents had admitted yesterday morning, before the announcement, that they were panicking at the thought of sending their children back to school on Monday, with some questioning why young children had to go to school at a time when the number of Covid-19 cases was escalating in the Province and the country.

Meanwhile, parents of pupils at Venus Primary School in Kimberley said they were planning on shutting down the school and accused the department of making empty promises about fixing problems at the school.

According to the members of the school governing body (SGB), the school, which they said was falling apart, does not have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPEs) and the infrastructure for the new group of pupils and teachers that would have been phased in on Monday.

They pointed out that the school only had three sets of toilets to cater for all the children, while male and female teachers had to share one toilet.

According to the SGB, the existing infrastructure was only just managing to cope with the 150 Grade 7 pupils who returned to school in June.

Parents at other schools in the city also expressed concern yesterday about the possibility of large numbers of pupils returning to class and the ability of schools to handle hundreds of pupils.

Parents of pupils at Diamantveld Primary said they were left confused and afraid after they received a notice from the school earlier this week informing all Grade 7 parents to keep their children at home and not to send them to school until further notice.

“We were unsure whether the school had been closed because someone had tested positive for Covid-19 as there had been no explanation from anyone about why the school had been closed,” one parent said.

“We then received another notice to state that the school would open again on Thursday following an order from the circuit manager.”

According to the parent, it emerged that a meeting had been held with South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) members, who had expressed concern about Covid-19 measures not being adhered to by the school, particularly with regard to the cleaning and sanitising of the premises on a daily basis.”

The parent stated that there were only two cleaners at the school, who were expected to clean and sanitise the entire premises, as well as ensuring that the toilets and facilities were also cleaned regularly.

“If they are barely coping at the moment, when only the Grade 7s are at the school, how will they be expected to manage once the other grades return to school on Monday?”

She added that there was talk that the school would be closed again until sufficient cleaners could be sourced.

The Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU) had indicated earlier that its members would report for duty, but would return home if the work conditions were not adhered to by the employer.

SAOU was among those who called for the return of the other grades to be postponed for two more weeks.

The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, indicated that the department would issue a detailed statement to the media today.