Reitumetse Makwea
Digital Intern
2 minute read
14 Jan 2022
5:00 am

Mounting calls to drop school rotation system

Reitumetse Makwea

health experts, minister of basic education Angie Motshekga, Gauteng premier David Makhura, and the Democratic Alliance said the immediate full reopening of schools in SA can no longer be delayed.

Setlabotjha Primary School Grade 1 class in Sebokeng, 12 January 2022. Gauteng Provincial Government Premier David Makhura, MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi and MEC for Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara lead back-to-school activities with the official hand over of Setlabotjha Primary School, in Sebokeng. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Following a crescendo of calls to end the rotational attendance system in schools, health experts, minister of basic education Angie Motshekga, Gauteng premier David Makhura, and the Democratic Alliance said the immediate full reopening of schools in SA can no longer be delayed.

Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said the decision to continue with the rotational system in schools was no longer based on the children’s safety but was a protection shield for those who were not vaccinated.

“In the process, advocating reluctance to get vaccinated, as a pro-choice stance, is causing great harm to the schoolchildren of South Africa. It not only harms their schooling, but their whole future,” she said.

“I want to emphasise that not getting vaccinated is not a riskfree choice or a choice without consequences. It is a choice in favour of taking a much more serious risk – the risk of getting Covid and suffering far worse consequences than the vaccine carries.”

She said the interests of unvaccinated teachers should not be allowed to weigh up against the needs of the children.

Vaccinologist Prof Shabir Madhi said SA had reached a turning point in the pandemic, and should stop using Covid as an excuse to continue practices such as avoiding parliamentary oversight.

“Immediate full opening of schools in SA can no longer be delayed to protect selfish interest of adults who choose to remain unvaccinated, or inefficiency to roll out boosters to high-risk groups,” he said in a series of tweets.

“Children remain at nominal risk of severe disease and have suffered disproportionately.”

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He also said since the start of pandemic, approximately 50% of Covid deaths occurred during the delta wave and under 5% during the omicron wave, and decoupling had taken place with -73% population immunity.

“In SA, the Covid attributable mortality rate is 480 per 100 000 people (higher than any high income country). Immunity is mainly due to high-force past infection in first three waves, with only 15% of the population having received two doses of Covid vaccine,” he added.

“SA does not have a low risk population,” Madhi emphasised.

However, not everyone agreed with the calls. Teacher Melissa Molema said omicron was known to infect the younger population, and while it might be a good idea to end rotational learning, the situation was trickier as far as children under 12 were involved.

Meanwhile, DA shadow minister of basic education Baxolile Nodada said last year some grades lost over 40% of learning and teaching time, which have undoubtedly affected pupil dropout rates and performance.

“Schools should take all necessary precautions to create a safe learning and teaching environment so that pupils can come back to school full time,” he added.

Makhura said 95% of teachers in Gauteng were vaccinated.

reitumetsem@citizen.co.za