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South Africa set to open for business as COVID-19 rules are further relaxed
24 May 2020, 7:46 PM

South Africa is moving to level 3 lockdown from June 1.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that alcohol will be sold for domestic consumption and on specified days. Tobacco sales remain prohibited.

The President says exercise will be allowed and will no longer be restricted to specific times.

Group gatherings remain banned, except for funerals. However the number of mourners should not exceed 50.

The President has also confirmed that schools will reopen from next month. This as concerns remain over the risk this poses to learners.

Earlier, the Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) called for schools to reopen in September as temperatures will be higher and therefore provide a better climate to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The union has served the Basic Education Department with legal papers, saying it intends to interdict the opening of schools.

Grade 7 and 12 learners are set to return on the proposed date as announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Ramaphosa says 429 people have now died from coronavirus and that the number of infections now stands at 22 583. He says 128 people are in intensive care with COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The President says some areas will be declared coronavirus hotspots and will require special attention.

All borders remain closed except for transportation of goods and repatriation of citizens.

Ramaphosa’s full address is in the video below:

 

 

Concerns mount over schools reopening in June
24 May 2020, 3:15 PM

The Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) says schools should only reopen in September as temperatures will be higher and therefore provide a better climate to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The union has served the Basic Education Department with legal papers, saying it intends to interdict the opening of schools on June the first.

Grade 7 and 12 learners are set to return on the proposed date as announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

The country now has 407 deaths from COVID19 complications and registers 21 343 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

EUSA General Secretary, Siphiwe Mpungose, says if Motshekga persists with the reopening of schools, they will push for her to be charged with attempted genocide as two school principals in the Western Cape are alleged to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We need to move with the strength of the virus. The higher temperatures, this virus does not spread when there are higher temperatures so we are saying September is the ideal period for schools to reopen. There was in the Western Cape, there were two school principals who have tested positive. Our legal team are busy at work with the interdict papers but if she persists when there are children testing positive, when there are teachers testing positive – we will be charging this Minister with attempted genocide,” he says.

SABC News apologises for the previous image used in this article, which was of a different union than the one in question.

In the video below, EUSA serves Basic Education with legal letter:

The union’s charge comes as South Africa’s biggest teachers’ union, SADTU, and National Teachers Union (NATU) say their members won’t be reporting for work on Monday.

Minister Motshekga advised that teachers return to school on Monday 25th May to prepare for the re-opening of schools.

SADTU KwaZulu-Natal General Secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, says they have informed members not to report for duty after visiting various districts in the province.

She says union representatives found that face masks and related equipment have not been delivered. Caluza says members will only return to work once the government has audited the delivery of all personal  protective equipment.

“We did see some deliveries that have been done to district offices and those things have not been taken to schools. Very few things were able to be sent like the five litter sanitisers are in schools, but the mask and other things are still in district offices based on that the union SADTU, that is why we are advising members not to report for duty tomorrow because the department needs time to send to those schools to audit then to deliver to schools. it is after that process that as a union we will be confident that our schools are safe,” Caluza says.

In the video below, SADTU explains its stance:

SADTU’S North West Secretary, Els Themba, says the department is far from ready for the reopening of schools.

“Close to more than a thousand schools in the province have not been cleaned and disinfected. The other aspect that we have raised as an organisation, is that some of our own members across other provinces have not even received their own permits, and therefore they cannot travel. In one school, with 37 members or staff members in that particular school, only eight masks were delivered and as such we have said that the lives of our members are in danger.”

National Teachers Union’s Alan Thompson says NATU will also not allow its members to expose themselves to an unsafe environment.

“We have reported our concerns to the department of basic education that we have many schools that have not been properly sanitised. We have many schools that have never received the hygiene and other sanitation material. Unfortunately we have many schools that have not employed people who are going to clean the surfaces and assist to maintain the proper sanitation in the school as a result we have discouraged our members from going to work simply because we cannot expose them to an environment that is not safe that is not healthy for them to be able to work in.”

Change of heart

KwaZulu-Natal authorities have taken the provincial unions’ concerns to heart.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has told journalists that teachers are expected to be back at school on Thursday once all personal protection equipment have been delivered in all schools in the province.

“In KwaZulu-Natal teachers and SMTS will not be expected to report back to school tomorrow as previously announced. This is done in order to ensure that all the schools have been thoroughly cleaned and that delivery of all essentials, especially PPEs have reached all our schools. We have taken the decision due to the fact that the demand for these essentials far outstep our surplus and as much as some schools are not yet in possession of all the equipment,” Zikalala says.

In the video below, Zikalala addresses the media on this:

The National Department of Basic Education is yet to respond to these concerns. However, Minister Motshekga has pledged government’s commitment to ensure that all children are safe.

Minister Motshekga has urged parents who are not yet comfortable with returning their children back to school to rather choose home-schooling when classes for grades seven and 12 resume.

The graph below is the Department of Education’s Back To School Plan:

Coronavirus
10 more deaths push COVID-19 fatalities to 417
23 May 2020, 9:58 PM

Ten more COVID-19 deaths have pushed South Africa’s death toll to 417. The total number of confirmed cases is 21 343 and recoveries are at 10 104.

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The Eastern Cape is trailing behind the Western Cape with the number of deaths with the province’s fatalities at 58. The Western Cape remains the epicentre of the pandemic in South Africa with 261 deaths and 13 826 infections.

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The latest figures come as South Africa prepares for further relaxation of COVID-19 regulations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously said that the country will be moving to level 3 of the lockdown in June.

He is expected to address the nation on Sunday evening, where details of discussions held in that regard are expected to be revealed.

This as the world continues the race to find a vaccine to the virus that has turned the lives of millions of people around the world upside down.

‘Return to school will be challenging’
23 May 2020, 3:32 PM

Psychologists say the return to school for thousands of children next month will prove to be a challenging time for both learners and parents.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced last week that both public and private schools, will reopen only for grade sevens and 12s on the first of June.

A move that has some parents concerned, saying this will place children at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus.

However, after eight weeks of being confined to learning online – experts say the transition back to a routine needs to begin soon.

Psychologist Rakhi Beekrum says while these fears from parents are expected, it is important to begin preparing children now for the return to school under challenging circumstances.

“It’s important for the parent to meet the child where they are, to listen to how they feeling, to validate the feeling, acknowledge what their concerns are. We need to reassure our children why we equipping them with protective measures for themselves. Those that are excited want the routine and want to be with friends; those who are anxious might have been bullied at school and have enjoyed this time away. Children will feed off your anxiety. If you are highly anxious, children are likely to feel the same way. We have to acknowledge that this is new normal that we are entering,” says Beekrum.

In the video below, some matriculants are caught between a rock and a hard place:

Beekrum is urging parents to educate their children on how to protect themselves under what can be considered a new normal in the classroom.

“Ensure that you have educated your children, you have had the conversation about social distancing, about wearing masks, washing hands; ensure that they understand their risks and rules. It’s also crucial to work with the school, work with the teachers. This is going to be a very difficult time for parents, the safety of your children is going to be the most important thing. I want you to understand that this is going to take some adjusting, be patient with yourself and we will deal with stresses on a daily basis.”

Eager for return to normalcy

Despite being a little nervous about returning to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – it seems many teenagers are eager to see their lives return to some normalcy.

Fourteen-year-old Retshidisitswe Mazibuko from Johannesburg says studying at home has been a challenge when one is surrounded by an extended family.

“For me, it’s hectic because I can’t study. I have siblings that are noisy. I feel like when I go back to school, I will have more concentration than I have when I am at home. I am worried, but it depends how I’m treating myself. I am too careful. I have been staying at home and following the rules,” Mazibuko says.

Teachers are expected to begin returning to school on Monday the 25th May. This is to ensure that everything is in place for when grades seven and 12 resume classes.

Educators and learners are likely to also receive orientation on what will become their new normal. This includes social distancing in the classroom, sanitising and the wearing of masks. Those parents who choose to keep their children at home have been urged to arrange home schooling.

In the video below, EUSA wants to interdict the reopening of schools:  

Mixed reactions to school reopening plan
20 May 2020, 5:00 AM

There’s been a mixed bag of reactions to the Basic Education’s confirmation that grade 7 and 12 learners will be returning to school come June 1.

Equal Education has raised concern over the state of readiness of rural and township schools for the phased reopening of schools.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says school senior management teams have received materials like sanitisers and masks ahead of the phased reopening. Materials are also being stored at warehouses.

The Minister says the Department will be gazetting a revised school calendar before the end of May.

NGOs and teacher unions have called for the Department to ensure that learners are not at risk when they return to school.

“We have concerns or are cautious around the just-in-time delivery proposition that’s been put on the table by the Department of Basic Education. We’re worried that the Department of Basic Education or provincial departments especially the rural provinces may not be ready, in fact, to meet the standard operating procedures or protocols that have been put on the table by the Department of Basic Education,” says Equal Education’s Noncedo Madubedube.

Senior Researcher at the Stellenbosch University Dr Nic Spaull has welcomed the Minister’s address.

“What the Minister showed tonight was leadership in this difficult time. She said she’s listened to experts; listened to evidence. I found it to be humble, honest, reasonable and scientific. I think what she was saying was that we can’t hold up the whole country for a small number of schools that are not ready.”

Dr Spaull says research has shown that children rarely die from COVID-19.

“Children will catch this disease at school; some teachers will catch this disease and it’s not a matter of if they will but when. Not all but they are going to get infected and if we accept that now and we put precautions in place and that it’s a very small percentage of children that will get it.”

Motheo Brodie from Section 27 acknowledges that the Minister was faced with difficult choices.

He says they will consult further with the department.

Brodie, however, says they are concerned that most schools they have liaised with, especially in Limpopo, are not ready to reopen.

“There’s a few other things that the Minister didn’t speak to and that is concerning,” Brodie says.

Parents worried

Some parents in the sprawling township of Majwemasweu in Brandfort, in the Free State, have vowed to reject any plan by the Department of Basic Education to reopen primary schools.

Brandfort has been battling with chronic water shortages and parents say they fear that their children may contract the coronavirus.

“In terms of our children, it’s not safe at all. I really don’t think it’s a good idea for our children to go back to school it’s not safe for us. The water was an issue from the beginning in Brandfort it has always been an issue so children going back to school it’s clear an aspect that we can’t overlook it poses a danger,” says one parent.

Free State Human Rights Commission manager, Thabang Kheswa, has appealed to the Basic Education Department to ensure that the school environment is conducive for learning.

“Water is very important in the fight against COVID-19. We can’t have a school that is operating without adequate access to water for learners. As the South African Human Rights Commission we will be embarking on monitoring processes ensuring that the department is responsible ensuring there is water in all schools,” Kheswa says.

Free State Cooperative Governance MEC, Thembeni Nxangisa, says they will support the Education Department’s programme of ensuring there is sufficient water supply in schools.

“The Department of COGTA in the Free State is working closely and under the instruction of the premier has been providing in edition to areas where there is water shortage – Jojo tanks and trucks supplying water in all communities that need water. We have agreed that we must increase that programme even especially schools.”

Nxangisa is confident that municipalities would be equal to the task of ensuring that service delivery is not compromised at schools.

 

 

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