The Department of Basic Education has health precautions planned to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus when schools reopen.
The precautions are outlined in the department’s Covid-19 basic education sector plan which was presented to parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education and the select committee on education, technology, arts and culture on Wednesday morning.
While the reopening dates have not been officially announced and the country waits for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s media briefing on Thursday, the plan they discussed on Wednesday morning outlined the planned health precautions.
The measures discussed included that:
- schools should practise physical distancing in classrooms;
- no more than two pupils should share desks;
- the wearing of cloth masks should be made mandatory for pupils and staff;
- all sporting activities and other extra-curricular activities should be prohibited;
- extra classes should be arranged in small groups where social distancing is practised.
Presenting the plan to the committee, Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli said basic and essential hygiene and sanitation guidelines were developed.
These included that all classrooms should be sanitised before the start of a school day and that pupils should sanitise before entering classes. The movement of pupils in classrooms should also be limited.
The department added that it would also work to ensure that scholar transport was sanitised before trips and that passengers sanitised before boarding.
However, the government should only be responsible for scholar transport provided by it. Parents should accept responsibility for private transport sanitation.
There are 3,500 schools that need assistance with water supply.
The department is working closely with the water and sanitation sector to ensure that water tanks are delivered to schools in need.
Provinces are also in the process of buying cleaning and disinfection materials, sanitisers, hand soap, gloves, cloth masks and thermometers.
Guidelines for maintaining hygiene in schools have also been developed and include basic principles of infection and prevention control measures.
These include that pupils and teachers should be subjected to screening before entering school premises and that anyone who has a high temperature be sent to isolate or undergo testing.
To ensure that everyone in the sector is familiar with the guidelines, the department said it would establish an orientation and training programme to allow pupils, teachers and support staff to become familiar with the arrangements.
The orientation programme will provide guidelines for interaction with pupils, parents, teachers and non-teaching staff in the school community.
It will include a training manual, video clips, information booklets, posters and appropriate signage to direct all stakeholders on what needs to be done to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.