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Union expresses concerns over reopening of schools

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The PSA said that extra precautions would have to be taken with the colder weather approaching.

THE PUBLIC Servants Association (PSA) believes that schools should remain closed until all the logistics and necessary arrangements are put in place to comply with Covid-19 regulations. 

According to proposed dates, matrics and Grade 7 pupils would return to class on May 6, while the rest of the grades would be gradually phased in by the middle of July. 

PSA provincial manager Steve Ledibane said on Tuesday that extra precautions would have to be taken with the colder weather approaching. 

“The safety of educators and pupils is of the utmost importance. Teachers and pupils are supposed to be provided with sanitisers, reusable masks and gloves but we have yet to be informed about how far the procurement process is,” said Ledibane.

He added that mobile classrooms would have to be sourced to ensure that physical distancing was maintained. 

“Portable classrooms are usually only available from outside the Northern Cape. With the restriction of movement between provinces, sourcing the mobile units may take some time. With the harsh elements, extreme temperatures and dust, we do not advocate pupils to be given outdoor classes.” 

Ledibane said that 186 Expanded Public Works Programme cleaners would be appointed throughout the Northern Cape.

“Classrooms will have to be decontaminated on a regular basis and there may not be enough workers to keep schools disinfected at all times.   

“Schools that were vandalised during the lockdown period must be repaired before pupils return. Even if classes are divided into smaller groups, it still comprises a gathering and nobody should be placed at risk of infection.”  

He indicated that the Department of Education had to formally outline how examinations and assessments would be affected, where it was proposed that Grade 12 preparatory exams be conducted in September and May/June senior certificate exams be tentatively postponed until November and December.

“Strategies will have to be developed to ensure that pupils do not fall behind if they do not immediately return to school.” 

Ledibane stated that the Department of Education had yet to inform the union whether teachers would be compensated if they were expected to give recovery lessons and teach for longer hours if classes were broken up into smaller groups.

“Classes of over 40 pupils will have to be divided into three classes. We have not been advised if all teachers, administrators and staff will be expected to return on May 6, even if only a partial number of grades are reinstated. 

“No mention has been made regarding provisions for the return of educators or pupils with pre-existing health conditions. 

“The department indicated that it made a provision for 542 replacement educators to replace educators who might contract the virus. We need to be kept up to date on budgetary and financial implications.”

He questioned if systems and designated isolation areas had been identified at all schools to treat any staff member or pupil who showed Covid-19 symptoms. 

“Regular testing and screening will have to be done at schools. We also do not know if school hostels will be open once schools reopen.” 

Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Lehuma Ntuane said that the Minister of Basic Education had indefinitely postponed a virtual media briefing. 

“We are waiting for the minister to announce how things will unfold. Unfortunately we don’t have any information at the moment.” 

An advisory on Monday indicated that the virtual media briefing by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, had been postponed.  

“The postponement is necessitated by the need to align with other interventions that are to be taken by the National Command Council (NCC) later this week.” 

Ministers were expected to provide an update in relation to the Covid-19 lockdown.