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The Case for Reopening Schools: The Harm From Lost Instruction Outweighs The COVID-19 Risks.

SUBMISSIONS OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS TO THE MINISTER OF BASIC EDUCATION REGARDING THE MAINTENANCE OF LEARNING AND TEACHING DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC DESPITE OPPOSITION BY LEADING FIVE TEACHER UNIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA|

SOUTH AFRICAN WALDORF FEDERATION

The Federation of Waldorf Schools in Southern Africa has 16 member schools. 4 schools are low fee under R300 per month, 1 school is a low fee special needs school, 5 schools are mid fee schools and the remaining schools are well resourced schools. Thus we represent all sectors of our society. All our schools have opened and are strictly following all the regulations and protocols required to combat COVID and ensure the safety of all teachers and Children in our communities. Our low fee schools are subsidized.

In total out of 3400 learners we have had 5 infections, all of which have been traced back to sources not from within the school. Out of 350 educators 4 have tested positive also not from within the school. Schools have been deep cleaned and apart from 1 school that closed for a short period all schools have continued unaffected. Children were already in Isolation due to family circumstances, so no classes have been disrupted due to learner exposure.

All our schools have engaged in a hybrid of online/ Remote and physical learning and have staggered the attendance of our classes. 50% of learns are back at school at a given point with an average of 85 to 90 percent attendance. Thus our teachers are dual teaching. Where children do not have access to online learning Watts App and resource packs are being used.

ACCELERATED EDUCATION ENTERPRISES (AEE) ASSOCIATION     

The Accelerated Education Enterprises (AEE) Association, a custodian of the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) Curriculum, has 650 Schools in South Africa (Primary and Secondary/ High Schools) and has 1600 Home Schools using the ACE Curriculum. 100% of our schools are open and all our Home Schools have been running even during lockdown because it is parents assisting their children at home with learning. We have Online Programmes which support our blended learning approach. To date we have had less than 10 cases of COVID 19 reported from our schools. It all the cases it has been staff members who got the virus outside of the school. SoP as provided by DBE were followed in each case. No child has had COVID 19 in all our schools.

We support the position of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to keep the schools open. There is no evidence to support the claim that children are in danger of contracting COVID 19 in Schools. Children are better supervised in schools and have the best care and in certain circumstances even safer than being at home when there is no one to supervise them.

ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS INTERNATIONAL (ACSI)

The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) has a membership of 109 Independent Christian Schools in South Africa. We currently have 105 of our schools open and fully functioning (different grades on different days and the like) and only 4 of our schools, which are stand-alone ECD centres that have not fully opened. We have had 13 Covid-19 cases reported from our schools across the country. These cases are mostly of teachers/parents that have contracted the virus from outside the schooling environment. Some of these schools had to close to be disinfected, but all of them have reopened successfully and without any other issues due to their strict adherence of the Covid-19 protocols and procedures.

Our schools have been operating with a 60-95% attendance register of learners, depending on what level of Online/blended learner they can also administer. There has however also been a harsh financial knock that the schools have taken, staff salaries have been reduced, in some instances up to 50% salary cuts and also only receiving at most 80% of schools fees in the best of situations. For the most part, there has been a drop of, on average, 40% of schools fees paid in.

ANGLICAN BOARD OF EDUCATION SA

The Anglican Board of Education represents 350 schools in Southern Africa, 110 schools in South Africa both independent and public schools (these are old mission schools that are now funded by the government but are on Church land).

All the schools are open and ABE supports the call to remain open because schools are good for children and remain safe places. The attendance at school varies between 50% to 90% depending on access to online learning and the grade. There is higher attendance in matric. The infection rate in schools is very low (0.2%) and the infection has been traced to contact outside the school. Schools have closed to do proper cleaning and sanitizing of certain areas of the school if a case is reported. 

ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM SCHOOLS

All 84 schools belonging to the Association of Muslim Schools in the nine provinces have reopened. The schools have all complied with the Covid 19 Standard Operating Procedures and have reported attendance ranging from 50% in the lower grades to over 85% in the Grade 12 and FET classes. Most schools are using a version of the reengineered time tabling schedules recommended by the DBE, with the popular choice being the alternate day model supplemented by online learning.

The incidence of Covid 19 infections varies from province to province but the trend appears to be that the source of infections is not from within the school but from home or community contact.

As with independent schools across the country, our member schools have also been severely affected by the economic downturn and the main casualties at this stage are staff who have had to take salary cuts of between 40% and 50%.

AMS supports the call for schools to remain open during this period with the proviso that individual schools need to be allowed flexibility and discretion according to their individual circumstances. 

SOUTH AFRICAN MONTESSORI ASSOCIATION

The South African Montessori Association has 189 members, of which 92% have successfully opened and phased in children from 18 June to date. Our Montessori schools serve both underprivileged and privileged communities.

SAMA has had three reported cases of COVID from our members, all of whom were parents who had contracted the infection from their workplaces and were in no way related to the schools. Regardless, the schools continue to follow the strict Health protocols and have been commended by the local Health authorities for the manner in which they have handled the situation.

We have had the most positive and uplifting feedback from our schools. The children have flourished since being able to return to school. Many schools reported that they visibly noticed the negative effect of school closure on the child’s emotional well-being and their physical development, particularly their gross motor and emotional development. This was soon remedied within two weeks of the children being back at school.

Most schools have had between 50% and 80% of children who have returned to school, with the remainder choosing to work online. However, the online learning pales in comparison to what the learners achieve in the classroom.

SAMA schools have been also very badly affected financially by school closures in the first phase of the lockdown. If

CATHOLIC INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION

Short report on Catholic Independent Schools 

There are 95 Catholic independent schools of which 39 are Pre-school to Grade 12 and the rest a mixture of primary and high schools. 

  • 3585 teachers
  • 53000 learners
  • 79% of leaners are black and 25 % Catholic.
  • 37 of these are no or lo fee schools.

Only one school has not opened due to intimidation.

COVID compliance is excellent although the costs of decontamination are becoming a challenge for low fee schools. CIE supplied PPE to no and low fee schools after raising funds. Schools have managed cases well – we do not actual figures but most schools have been affected but have closed and opened after decontamination.

While some schools report almost 100% attendance of learners, the average attendance is 80%. In Gauteng this has dropped as the numbers of COVID19 cases has risen, with schools with online capacity using a mixture of online and face-to-face, and one school using online for the most of the school (Grade R -11) online but Grade 12s at school. .

Teacher attendance varies due to those with comorbidities, testing positive or going into isolation, although these are preparing lessons or where possible teaching online.

While it is difficult to give are the actual numbers of cases. These have risen in Gauteng with several teachers and learners testing positive. All cases have come from outside the school.

Schools in townships have not faced any protests to date except the orphanage in Bronkhorstspruit which had to close the school portion because of intimidation. Soweto schools were warned on Thursday of COSAS action which did not materialise.

SOUTH AFRICAN BOARD OF JEWISH EDUCATION

The South African Board of Jewish Education (SABJE) has taken a decision to move all their schools in Gauteng to an online platform as a precautionary measure as per advice given to them by their medical consultants and concerns raised. This is in no way suggesting that schools must be closed. They have the resources and the infrastructure to provide online learning to all their students. The main concern has been about the need to protect teachers and to reduce the stress and anxiety levels some of them have had to deal with in the past months.  This is only for their Gauteng schools in the interim period. The decision will be reviewed when circumstances change and new advice is received from their medical practitioner consultants.

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