No social distancing as hungry pupils flood schools
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DURBAN - SCHOOL nutrition programmes might be one of the factors driving high numbers of pupils back to school, despite the Department of Education’s call for schools to reduce the number of pupils attending daily during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A video and images of pupils from Welile Moshoeshoe Primary School in Amaoti, Inanda, shared with the Daily News anonymously shows that the school failed to adhere to the Covid-19 regulations, as there was no social distancing and pupils were not wearing masks.
“What we have observed is that parents released children to come to school, whether schools were ready or not. The demand for school nutrition programmes is a factor. Most children are hungry at home and parents would rather have children in school where they will get meals,” said Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
Schools re-opened on July 26 following the winter holidays closure that came early after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the Covid-19 infection rate had increased, and the country was placed at lockdown level 4.
“The instruction was very clear; in terms of the risk-adjusted differentiated strategy, schools that are not ready must not have all the learners back at once; instead, they must continue with rotation timetabling,” said Mhlanga.
The school’s senior head of department, Nathi Ngcobo, felt that the department could have done better and prevented the overcrowding in schools, even in the absence of the pandemic.
“We have 1 750 pupils enrolled at the school and each class has about 80 pupils. It has been this way for some time, and we have documents dating back to 14 years ago, requesting mobile classes. Adhering to Covid-19 regulations is quite difficult because we have a lot of catching up to do with all of them. The department has also not delivered face masks to our school.” Ngcobo said.
The school is located in an informal settlement zone where the community is poverty stricken. The majority of the community is unemployed and many children come from child-headed households.
“The fact that our school is under quantile 2 makes it even more difficult for us to send away children, knowing very well that parents do not have many options. We are pleading with the department to help us keep our pupils safe by at least sending us mobile classes for the time being,” said the school’s deputy principal Dumisani Mvubu.
The school was established in 1937 on church premises and subsequently led to the creation of four other schools in the same area.
There were initially five classes at the school with 14 teachers and the school has since grown, with 24 classrooms and 42 teachers.
Activist Andre de Bruin, the Assegai School Governing Body chairperson, said that the rotational system had challenges of its own.
“Having to teach the same thing time and time again puts strain on the teachers. Schools have been stretched to the limit. We have become slave drivers. The cleaners are worked to the bone. Teachers have to stand and eat. They’re not sure when last they went to the staff room. Some schools have no money. They are doing a sterling job under horrific conditions,” he said.
However, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga recently gazetted that primary schools unable to adhere to the one-metre social distancing regulation should write to the department and propose different but fitting timetable models.
“A school that is unable to return to the traditional and daily attendance timetabling model (and) which prefers to continue with a timetabling model, must by August 6 (Friday), notify the head of department thereof, in writing, through the district office. A school must then obtain the head of department’s approval to continue with a different timetabling model.
“A school must set out the steps taken to return to a traditional and daily attendance timetabling model and provide reasons for the decision to adhere to a differentiated timetabling model,” read the Government Gazette.
Meanwhile, Hillview Secondary School in Newlands East is expected to re-open on Wednesday after three people tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday. The school sent out a circular telling parents that they had to close school early. The school had been deep-cleansed in the interim, according to the school.