The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has urged government to scrap rotational timetables for primary schools.
This came after the SAHRC wrote to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the rotational classes for pupils.
In a statement released on Monday, the commission said it was of the view that rotational timetables had “a long-lasting negative impact on learning”, as a large number of primary schools across the country continued with it.
The timetable may continue in 2022, according to the SAHRC.
“The commission holds that rotational learning has a long-lasting negative impact on learning outcomes for children and, as the MAC’s [Ministerial Advisory Committee’s] advice states, that ‘the harms of learners attending school on a rotational basis — specifically the severe cognitive, nutritional, and psychosocial costs — exceed the benefits of reduced Covid-19 infections from smaller class sizes’,” the commission.
The SAHRC also wants the one-metre social distancing requirement for primary schools amended by Dlamini-Zuma.
“The Cogta directive compromises the ability of primary schools, where the very foundation of learning takes place, to return to normal teaching and learning. The commission agrees with the MAC that ‘all primary schools should open at full capacity’,” it further said.
On 31 July this year, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) published new Covid-19 directions, which revealed its plans to reduce physical distancing in primary schools.
The department had intended to approach Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to reduce social distancing from 1m to 0.5m, which was met with backlash from a number of teacher unions – including the South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU).
Meanwhile, the commission has also called on government to discuss schooling at high schools returning to normal, as the Department of Health, last month, started with the Covid-19 vaccinations for 12 year olds and upwards.
All children 12-17 years and older are eligible to receive one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
More than 39,000 children signed up for Covid-19 vaccination on day one of registration. Children in this age group also do not need their parent’s consent to get a vaccine.
As of 28 October, 12,170 children in this age group have since received their shots.
According to Phaahla, the health department’s goal is to have 3.25 million children vaccinated by mid-January 2022.
While government has also started rolling out its Covid-19 vaccine certificate system, another vaccination drive themed Vooma Vaccination Weekend to encourage citizens to get their vaccinations against Covid-19 will take place from 12 to 14 November.