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All systems go as learners in some grades return

Most schools across the city on Monday welcomed back Gr 7 and Gr 12 learners with only the proverbial ‘open arms’, amid strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

POLOKWANE – Learners across the country last attended school on 18 March, when term one was cut short by the announcement of a State of National Disaster, which resulted in a lockdown. From a visit to some schools, it was evident that there is a ‘new normal’ in town: learners, teachers and staff were continuously sanitising their hands, had their temperatures screened and were found to practice social distancing.

While the situation in the city seemed to be on par, schools in more rural areas had not been so fortunate, according to the Provincial Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), Sowell Tjebane. He reported that some schools still needed protective equipment, and that issues of water and sanitation remained problematic.


Matazima Mweli, the Director-General, in a presentation last week confirmed that 21 out of 453 schools in the province received mobile toilets, with the remainder being delivered this week. Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga earlier announced that the 2020 school year calendar is being revised.

In terms of the city’s private schools, both Mitchell House and Northern Muslim School requested learners to stay at home this week after a learner at Mitchell House tested positive for Covid-19.

The Principal at Northern Muslim School, Lowe Kruger said in a letter that an emergency decision had to be made to temporarily close the school, after they had earlier re-opened for certain grades. The decision, he said was taken in the best interest of learners and staff. “We received information that a learner from another school had tested positive. After an investigation it was found that one of our learners who was present at school last week, has a sibling who was in direct contact with the learner who tested positive,” Kruger said.

He said they recommended that all learners and staff who had been present at school self-isolate, in accordance with Covid-19 protocol. “During the closure period, the school will again proceed with deep cleaning and sanitising of our premises, while learning continues online. We appeal to one and all not to panic. Parents should not hesitate to contact the school should they require any assistance further,” he said.

Mitchell House Headmaster, Andrew Cook on Tuesday issued a statement thanking parents for their cooperation during the school’s decision to suspend school until proper medical advice and clearance had been given by the Department of Health. This, after a learner who attended class last week, tested positive for Covid-19. “Very little is more important than the health and safety of our learners and all those who work at Mitchell House,” he said. Three representatives from Health visited the school earlier this week, finding the school “exemplary in terms of preparedness”, he added. While the school expected learners back on Wednesday, Cook also highlighted the need not to spread panic.

“May I remind parents and children that this is a virus. No matter what measures we take to prevent it, some of us are going to contract it.” He also reiterated an earlier message from the Health MEC, Phophi Ramathuba, when she said society shouldn’t stigmatise those who contract Covid-19: “There is no stigma attached to those who contract it just as I do not feel stigmatised that Mitchell House has been the first school to suffer in this way. I know that we have taken every precaution that we can, and I am confident that the affected learner did the same,” he concluded.


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