Full School Return Still In Place Even with Third Wave

Even though the country is now seeing a rise in infections with Gauteng recording thousands of new cases daily, the Education Department has said that schools will still be opening with full capacity. The Gauteng Education Department also gave some insight into what would happen should a positive case be found.

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The Department of Education in Gauteng has said that it's finalising the process of a safe reopening of it's primary schools to full capacity from 26 July. This plan remains unchanged even as the country is in the beginning stages of the third wave with Gauteng recording thousands of new cases daily.

In early June, the Department of Education announced that all primary school learners in the country will be returning to normal daily school at full capacity from 26 July, which marks the first day of the third term.

Over 2000 schools in the province have been affected by positive cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began with over 1000 students testing positive in the past week.

The Spokesperson for the Gauteng Education Department, Steve Mabona, said the following on why full capacity plans are still being made:

It's being we're making necessary preparations for the primary schools to come back. You'll know that, according to our researchers, we have lost so much of our curriculum time, more so at that level. 

He goes on to say that schoolchildren need a teacher in front of them.

They continue to work closely with the Department of Health and are said to be taking advice on the number of cases reported. From this, they will be told whether they need to close schools and move to online learning.

Mabona explains that their decision comes from what professionals would have advised them to do and that those experts look at environment, cases, who needs to isolate and the number of classrooms affected by infections.

Teachers are also a concern with this full capacity return as they are older and could be affected by the virus much more than learners. 

In the event of a case and someone won't come for a sizable amount of time, we will then invoke what we call 'substitute teachers' but you know that with Covid, people will go for 7 to 10 days and then they will come back.

Mabona was not able to say when teachers in the province will be vaccinated and instead said that the Department of Health will manage it. The Department does however support the motion that teacher vaccinations should be a priority.

The department is said to be doing better, from an education perspective, and this is due to their decision to not shut down schools after just 1 or 2 positive cases. Instead, an assessment is made by the Department of Health and schools are then guided on what they should do.

Should there be a positive case found in the school, only the areas which were affected will be decontaminated.

In the latest DBE TV News Bulletin, it was said that the Department of Basic Education has said that it is ready to reopen primary schools with full capacity on 26 July. This had to happen due to the department having to trim the 2020 curriculum.

Schools had to put a rotational timetable in place to ensure learners are safe but this is said to not be working and has learners miss out. Teachers have reported that the rotational timetable is not helping and the gaps of 2020 remain.

Chief Director of the curriculum, Dr Moses Simelane, said:

These young ones, after they had been at home for 2 or 3 days, when they come back, they have forgotten everything that they have been taught so teachers are made to start over and over and over again. Repeating the same concepts they are teaching and in that sense, not making any progress in our recovery plan.

Simelane says that more learning losses are seen this year than there was in 2020.

Teachers will not be the ones moving from one class to another with subject changes, instead of learners moving. This then minimises the amount of contact between learners.

The department is still looking at the possibility of returning other grades to a full-time daily schedule.

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