As primary school pupils are expected to attend classes on a daily basis starting this week, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on Monday said schools were not forced to return all pupils at full capacity.
The department’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the full attendance of primary school pupils would be based on a different approach. This means that each school needs to assess its ability to return all pupils to classes and enforce Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
“The return of learners at primary school level today is not forced on schools to implement. We are implementing what is called a risk-adjusted differentiated strategy, which means that schools, provinces and districts will make an assessment of whether they can allow all the learners to turn on or not.
“In the case where they are not able to do that, they are free to proceed with the rotation system,” Mhlanga said in an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Monday morning.
The full attendance of pupils in grades R to 7 was approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council following the recommendations of scientists who advise Cabinet on Covid-related matters.
The DBE has previously said the rotational system that was being followed by most schools had caused serious disruptions in the sector.
Mhlanga said schools that did not have the capacity to accommodate the return of all primary school pupils should continue with the rotation system.
“The rotational system is not working and it was also not working for those schools who had the resources and the space to have all the learners back. And now with this arrangement, they will be able to freely have those learners back so that they can proceed with teaching,” he said.
‘We want to protect lives’
Mhlanga said the department was at all times ready to maintain the balance between saving lives and livelihoods, while fighting the pandemic.
“We need to make sure that whatever we do, we don’t do it at the expense of lives. We want to protect people’s lives. It’s a difficult situation and we have to think very hard about what we need to do.
“And we agree that, where it is possible for learning and teaching to proceed with all learners in class and social distancing being observed at one metre, we need to be able to allow those schools to proceed. Where this is not possible, allow those schools to proceed with the rotation system.”
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi were expected to visit primary schools in Ekurhuleni to monitor the return of pupils. But this was cancelled due to “an urgent matter that requires their attention”.
The DBE said the visit would be rescheduled to a later date.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe