The Department of Basic Education did not convincingly demonstrate that its list of non-negotiables to prevent the spread of Covid-19 will be in place by next Wednesday when the phased re-opening of schools start, says Equal Education (EE).
This after the department presented its Covid-19 basic education sector plan that would see the phased-in resumption of schooling with tentative dates being 4 May for teachers and 6 May for the first group of pupils – grades 7 and 12, News24 reported.
According to EE, the department presented plans on its broad intentions but failed to provide crucial detail on what was in place.
“Many questions remain about how basic education authorities will ensure that schools in poor and working class communities are prepared to mitigate the health risks and to support the teaching of children who have been [and continue to be] unable to learn from home due to factors such as a lack of access to the internet, to devices, or to electricity,” it said in a statement.
The organisation added it was deeply disappointed by the implications of the phased re-opening of schools as the national school nutrition programme (NSNP) had not been addressed.
“The department’s failure to consider reactivating the NSNP and to engage with these alternatives jeopardises children’s health and nutritional needs.
“The department must explain how the conditional grant, which usually funds the NSNP, is being used. It is a requirement of the grant that that money is used for school meals,” EE said.
With respect to the 3 500 schools requiring emergency water provisions, the department plans to provide mobile toilets.
EE, however, said the department should provide comprehensive information on the implementation of these emergency measures.
It expressed concern about the burden of responsibility to provide masks to pupils in quintile four and five schools, which would later fall on parents.
Schools in quintiles one, two and three have been declared no-fee schools, while schools in quintiles four and five are fee-paying schools.
“There are, however, many children from low-income households attending quintile four and five schools, and a number of schools that are erroneously classified as quintile four and five schools,” EE said.
“The failure to provide masks to these children would be a severe omission.”
EE noted the plans did not outline how social distancing rules would be enforced, saying, for example, the department had placed a limit of 40 pupils per classroom but some schools were overcrowded
“To mitigate this, the department has proposed the provision of mobile classrooms. But it is unclear whether an assessment has been conducted to determine exactly how many schools need additional rooms, and whether those schools have received mobile classrooms.”
In addition, the plans did not mention the opening of school hostels.
“This will impact learners who currently attend residential schools far from home and has a particular impact on learners with disabilities attending special schools,” EE said