Parents say they are worried about the Department of Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, gazetting that on 26 July learners in grade R to seven are to return to class daily as well as grade R to 12 at special education needs schools.
The minister’s decision has been placed under further scrutiny following President Ramaphosa’s announcement last night that the country has been moved from alert Level 2 to alert Level 3 as the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has never experienced a health crisis of this severity before, nor one so prolonged.
“A third wave of infections is upon us. We have to contain this new wave of infections.
“The average number of daily new infections has doubled. Over the last seven days, we have recorded an average of 7,500 daily infections. Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 over the last 14 days are 59 per cent higher than the preceding 14 days,” said Ramaphosa.
The president added that the average number of people who die from Covid-19 each day has increased by 48 per cent from 535 two weeks ago to 791 in the past seven days.
He said four provinces – Gauteng, the Free State, North West and the Northern Cape province – are officially in a third wave, while others are approaching that point. Ramaphosa said the proportion of Covid tests that are positive are also continuing to rise in Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape, the Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal.
“Of these, Gauteng has been the worst hit.
“In view of the rising infections, we have therefore decided to move the country to Alert Level 3,” said Ramaphosa.
Adding that the country’s mass vaccination programme has also encountered several setbacks.
Inside Education reported on Monday that the vaccination of educators has been put on hold following the announcement on Sunday by the department of health that over two million Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines are contaminated.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday ordered that over 60 million J&J vaccine doses be discarded after concerns that they could be contaminated at the manufacturing plant.
It is against this backdrop that parents have raised concerns about their children going back to school.
Motshekga said the current rotational system in place is no longer working.
“It really worries me that we are going to erode the foundations for learning,” said Motshekga.
She said learners were missing out on a lot of work because they would come in one week and skip the next.
“We continue to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic and make all necessary regulations and directions in line with the Covid-19 risk-adjusted differentiated strategy. I realise that there is anxiety about sending all primary school children back to school at once. There’s no need to panic. Our decision making is supported by empirical evidence,” said Motshekga.
This decision taken by the minister is despite the fact that more learners and staff are getting infected by the virus, with Gauteng reporting 2000 cases just last week.
Gauteng Department of Education Spokesperson Steve Mabona said the provincial department can confirm that a growing number of children are testing positive in Gauteng schools, “and where it is recommended by the Department of Health for us to close schools, we will do so,” he said.
But the spokesperson said no decision to close down schools has been taken as yet.