The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) is calling on the government to consider the safety of learners before they allow more grades to return to the classroom.

Contralesa president Kgosi Larmeck Mokoena says the government promised to address a number of challenges faced by schools, especially in rural areas, before the Department of Education allowed Grade 7 and 12 learners to return, but nothing has changed.

Grades R, 6 and 11 are expected to return to school from Monday.

The safety of learners has become a concern to parents as well as other stakeholders. This comes after the Department of Education announced that more grades are expected to return from Monday. But not everyone is happy with the move.

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa wants the department of education to prioritise learners issues, especially in rural areas. They say rural schools are the hardest hit by the spread of the coronavirus.

Mokoena says they have been pleading with the department of education to look at some of the challenges faced by learners in the rural areas, but nothing has changed.

“It is not the first time we are raising this concern. We once raised this concern directly to the Minister that we do not have a problem if other grades will open especially Grade 12 and Grade 7. And now we are told that they are going to add other Grades. Those concerns that we raised then, we thought the department will have addressed them now, but it is just unfortunate that some of the schools as we speak have not yet opened because all the requirements that were stared by the regulation were not met.”

Mokoena says social distancing remains a huge problem in rural schools. Lack of classrooms and furniture are among the challenges. He further says some schools have not been fumigated and provided with enough sanitiser and Personal Protection Equipment.

Mokoena says they will continue to fight for their communities. “For example, I am from one high school called Morosha High School. As we speak, they do not have water, they do not have ablution facilities. Those are the issues that we raised then amongst other things and if they are going to add other grades now whilst all those things are not yet addressed – unless if they will be addressed this coming weekend. We will appreciate that and we said some of the schools do not have enough classrooms to accommodate all other graded they want to bring back to schools”.

Meanwhile, Kgosi Mokoena has also appealed to the taxi industry and the department of transport to find ways to solve their current impasse. -Reporting by Vusi Shongwe