Most primary schools in the Northern Cape will not operate at full capacity on Monday as they cannot meet the required COVID-19 protocols.
The provincial Education Department has confirmed that only 79 out of 424 primary schools in the province can accommodate all learners at once.
The department says the rest of the schools still do not have sufficient infrastructure, adequate water supply and enough teachers to operate at full capacity.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, most schools have been working with a differentiated timetable but are now expected to return to the traditional daily school timetable model.
Department spokesperson Lehuma Ntuane says opening more schools to operate at full capacity would be costly.
“The main challenge is the maintaining of the mandatory 1.5 metres social distancing requirement for learners. This will require additional classroom space as well as teaching staff which the department is unable to budget for. For now, we will continue with the differentiated timetable model which is in the best interest of both learners and educators.”
Meanwhile, teachers’ unions in the Northern Cape say opening few schools to operate at full capacity will disadvantage those who are unable to.
The South African Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) have raised concerns that most schools will be left behind.
SADTU provincial secretary Palesa Nqumashe says, “Schools that are ready are your small schools, your farm schools and your ex-model c schools with a small learner number capacity. The big schools are not ready at all and we don’t think it serves the purpose of what we want to achieve as the department.”
SAOU provincial secretary Henk Brand says: “That is the problem that there are hundreds if not thousands of pupils who will lag behind and there is up to now not really a clear plan on what to do to keep them up to speed and within the curriculum.”
In the video below, education experts unpack the impact of COVID-19 in schooling: