It is the first day of school for Grade 7 and 12 learners across the country under the COVID-19 learning environment – complete with face masks, screening and social distancing protocols.
On the first day of the reopening of schools, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga visited various schools across Gauteng to oversee their implementation of the COVID-19 health and safety regulations.
While the Minister was yet to receive feedback on the national reopening, she expressed her satisfaction at the adherence to protocol at the schools she visited, among them was Phulong Secondary School in the East Rand.
“I’m satisfied that most schools have really gone out of their way and also visually demonstrated or illustrated how the social distancing is supposed to operate throughout the school with markings,” said the Minister.
Motshekga said while the reopening of schools was off to a smooth start, if any COVID-19 symptoms are detected at the point of screening or during learning, strict adherence to protocols must be followed.
“As soon as we detect a high temperature the matter really becomes a health issue and the Health Department helps us.
“Just like in shops or factories, schools will be treated with the same strict adherence to health protocols. Teachers have been initiated, principals know what to do, senior school managers have been trained, learners have been inducted and that is why we say no teaching can take place before any induction,” she said.
The first week of June, saw teachers undergo induction and orientation in preparation to welcome learners. During that week, Moshekga said the sector gained some experience on what to do should a teacher test positive.
“We already have an experience where a number of our teachers tested positive last week when it was teachers only. Again the health protocols kick in, the Health Department takes over and the school like in any other institution closes for decontamination and the Health Department gives us the go ahead to open or not to open,” she said.
For anxious parents, the Basic Education Department has availed home schooling as an option provided where a programme is set up for learners.
“Children who have underlying comorbidities, as a sector we have an obligation to work out a plan with the parents so it is not a choice not to come. It is the health challenges that a learner has and therefore we have to make an arrangement with the principal.
“If a parent is anxious, it is a different story. The first step we have said they should go for home schooling but clearly a number of parents have come back to us to say it’s a very difficult one,” she said.
According to the directions in the gazetted regulations, parents who choose not to send a learner to school, must apply to the Head of Department, who may exempt a learner either entirely, partially or conditionally, from compulsory school attendance, if it is in the best interests of the learner.
A parent who chooses not to send their child to school is also obliged to apply for home education.