Teachers at schools across several provinces anticipate they won’t be able to cope when more grades return to classrooms from Monday, 6 July.
This is according to the results of a survey conducted by four teacher unions – the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) and the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU).
Grade 7 and 12 returned to schools on 8 June after being away for more than 10 weeks due to the hard lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic which hit South African shores in March.
The unions have conducted four surveys since May.
The first three polls focused on preparations to welcome back Grade 7 and 12 pupils, as well as the circumstances in schools after 1 June.
The latest poll, conducted on 29 June, assessed the state of readiness for schools to accommodate the return of pupils in grades R to six and grades eight to 11 on Monday. Special schools are also expected to reopen for other grades on Monday.
The first three surveys received between 5 500 and 9 365 responses, while the latest poll registered 5 293 responses, reflecting responses from around 23% of schools nationally, the unions said.
23% of schools dependent on water tanks
Although the department of basic education (DBE), led by minister Angie Motshekga and her director general Mathanzima Mweli, has been adamant all was in good order for the reopening of schools – and Covid-19 protocols would be followed with models in place to ensure there was no more than 50% of pupils on school premises – the unions’ survey suggests teachers were still facing serious challenges at many schools.
Many schools have indicated they would be rotating grades, according to the survey.
Some of the issues highlighted included inadequate sanitation compliance and limited capacity to create viable timetables.
About 23% of respondents said they have not been able to construct timetables because of limited numbers of classrooms and teachers.
“In only two provinces have more than 80% of schools been able to construct a timetable for when the next grades return that allows a 1.5 metre distance between learners in classrooms,” read the results report.
At least 31% of schools nationally also reported they would not have enough water for washing hands when additional grades return.
The report also reveals 23% of schools dependent on water tanks report that these have not yet been delivered to them, with 70% of respondents in the Eastern Cape still waiting.
For those schools that have received water tanks, 34% reported not knowing how to refill them.
The report states: “In 8 provinces, less than 54% of schools have subject teams or phase teams been able to meet and review the curriculum guidance received from national and province for the returning grades.
“In 8 provinces, less than 48% of schools have all subject teams or phase teams planned their teaching for the returning grades in terms of the curriculum guidance received for the returning grades.”
With two grades currently back at school, principals have indicated they were already not coping with screening pupils, and anticipate this would be another challenge once more pupils start returning.
They also report anticipating difficulty with managing the cleaning and disinfection of classrooms for all the grades. Screenshot of teacher union survey.