Asanda Matlhare
Intern Journalist
2 minute read
3 Aug 2021
5:40 am

Social distancing causes problems in schools

Asanda Matlhare

Mhlanga added primary school pupils in KwaZulu-Natal were also expected to attend classes on a daily basis, provided it was safe to do so.

Picture: iStock

It’s go time for the schools online admission process, although there are still a number of obstacles the department of basic education (DBE) must get through.

Yesterday, some primary schools opened in their full capacity for term three. However, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said not every school could accommodate high numbers.

“The return of pupils at primary school level was not forced on schools to implement. We implemented what was called a risk-adjusted differentiated strategy, where schools, provinces and districts would make an assessment of whether they could allow all the pupils to turn [up] or not,” he said.

The Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi. said 57 primary schools were not able to accommodate pupils in full capacity.

“It was important to note if social distancing was not an issue, we would not have a crisis. An exception was the 13 schools that experienced water pressure challenges due to municipalities [and] we could not fight this pandemic without washing our hands,” he said.

Mhlanga added primary school pupils in KwaZulu-Natal were also expected to attend classes on a daily basis, provided it was safe to do so. There were alternative measures for schools damaged in last month’s unrest.

“All the damaged schools opened on 26 July, when schools went back for term three. Mobile classrooms were delivered to three schools which were completely destroyed; others suffered minor damages and were repaired,” he said.

“The DBE and the KZN department of education have not finalised all assessments. The preliminary estimates received as at yesterday, puts the figure above R300 million.”

Lesufi’s announcement on Sunday about the “improved” online admission system which would be divided into two phases was met with strong reactions from parents.

“The [Gauteng department of education’s] placement application for Grade one and Grade eight was a waste of time and an inconvenience to [parents],” said a parent Kgothatso Molefe.

“Parents chose schools which were best for their children yet the department decided to choose which school the child should attend, and the biggest issue I had was the quality of education in the schools closest to us the GDE chose for our children.”

Civil rights organisation AfriForum was also not thrilled about the education MEC’s online system announcement and instructed its legal team to direct a letter to the department of education to raise its concerns regarding the possible shortcomings of the school placement process.

“In light of the chaos that prevailed in previous years with the online processes, AfriForum was concerned about the timeline of the placements,” said AfriForum’s Alana Bailey.

“The ideal would be for schools to handle placements themselves, as had been done in the years before Gauteng implemented the online placement system.”