The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) is demanding that learners be tested for COVID-19 prior to them re-entering schools.

The student body says there are schools that have not fully implemented strict control guidelines to combat the spread of COVID-19 in institutions and say they have already removed learners from schools in Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Welkom in the Free State – citing non-compliance at the institutions.

COSAS Deputy Secretary General Xola Booi says they are identifying schools that are not complying with lockdown and sanitization measures, as it embarks on shutting down places of learning amid the pandemic.

Boois says, “We have decided to shut down the schools as of today because we are demanding testing for all learners that are going to schools, not just screening because screening does not mean that they have been tested. We have a number of schools that we have already identified from all 9 provinces.”

Meanwhile, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says no teacher or learner has been infected with COVID-19 in all public schools in the province since they reopened.

Lesufi was responding to the continuing criticism of the government’s decision to re-open schools as the numbers of COVID-19 infections keep rising.

At least 56 Gauteng schools were closed during the week after positive cases of COVID-19 were detected.

Lesufi says government’s decision on schools is based on expert advice and they’re trying their best to ensure that learners continue to receive education in a safe environment.

“Since the re-opening of schools, there’s no direct learner that got the virus from our school premises, as a public institution; maybe in private schools and that’s a fact. There’s no single teacher that got infected within our school premises. All the people that tested positive are because our systems picked them up before they even arrived within the school premises. It’s when they were within the school premises that we tested them and established that they have problems so our systems can pick up if there’s something wrong.”

In the video below, Panyaza Lesufi briefs the media on efforts by Gauteng Education to ensure safety of learners and teachers at schools:

Learners and teachers to receive masks

Following complaints about the poor quality of masks learners had received upon their return to school, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku says they’ll be handing out new masks.

He also says they’re working on teachers’ requests for face-shields because learners struggle to hear them when they speak with masks on.

Masuku admits there were also problems with the sizes of the masks given to learners.

“We’re working on that, by tomorrow (Monday), the affected batches will be replaced and the issue of the face shield is something we have considered. I think we have made it one of our priorities to get face shields not only for the educators but for all other public servants who work in the frontline; you know nurses, security guards and also the police officers. But the issue we’re dealing with the new situation all the time, so we’ll continuously learn and correct ourselves.”