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Next 14 days will decide the rest of academic year – Angie Motshekga

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The Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, during a tour of the vaccination site in Kimberley indicated that the next 14-days will pave the way on what measures the department would have to implement for the rest of the academic year.

The Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, during a tour of the vaccination site in Kimberley. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE MINISTER of Education, Angie Motshekga, during a tour of the vaccination site in Kimberley indicated that the next 14-days will pave the way on what measures the department would have to implement for the rest of the academic year.

Motshekga said the education system is currently under tremendous strain due to the pandemic and infections at schools.

“We will assess the situation at schools after the two weeks. If infections are still high at schools, then we will have to relook the situation.

“We are currently struggling and under strain at the moment.

“The current pandemic has been devastating, not only because of the number of infections at schools, but we have realised the need for children to return to the classroom. Children are social-beings and need to interact with their peers. That is also an important aspect in their learning,” she said.

She said the vaccination of teachers will also play a vital role in how the department moves forwards as well as the number of infections in schools.

“We are fortunate that schools will close for teachers on Friday as that will assist us in the vaccination process. We will be able to have more people vaccinated during the recess.

“We have noted that the Northern Cape had the highest number of infections at schools these past two weeks. We had 90 schools with Covid-19 infections two weeks ago. We had to shut those schools down in order to disinfect the schools. However, that number has decreased. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has also indicated that the Northern Cape has had a decline in infections. Only 10 schools in the Province have reported infections,” she said.

The provincial department of education reported that it has recorded 175 new Covid-19 positive cases, of which 32 are educators and support staff, as well as 135 learners.

Education unions in the Province said a thorough assessment is required before all learners can return to the “normal’ teaching and learning schedule.

The South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) Provincial Secretary, Palesa Nqumashe said the call for schools to close was due to the infection rate at schools.

“The concern of having all primary school children return to school is a great concern especially since it is primary children. The children would still be required to observe the Covid-19 regulations which includes the importance of social distancing. The number of learners the classrooms in our Province has does not allow for that. Schools have been using the rotation system as a means of reducing overcrowding in classrooms.

“If all learners should return to school, then classes would be overcrowded and infections will be higher. If the department decides to present classes in a community hall, then they would require additional resources, however the challenge would be whether they have the budget for those additional resources. The department will have to make a thorough assessment about the virus before they allow all children to return to class,” she said.

The provincial secretary of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysunie (SAOU) Henk Brand said schools in the Province do not have the resources or capacity to allow all learners to return to class.

“I visited several schools in the rural areas at the beginning of June and witnessed that the majority of primary schools have double desks. None of the schools have single desks unlike the high schools. There are some schools who bought screens to place between the desks of learners, but it is a small number of schools that did that. The department has a lot of work to do and we are not certain when we will reach the peak of this virus. It is not even certain at this stage that schools will indeed open on July 19, 2021 and the infections will decrease. Currently we have to manage the changes but also not risk lives. That is a big challenge facing the department,” said Brand.

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