The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), has called on the Department of Basic Education to reassess strategies around the reopening of schools, saying the phasing in of more grades may need to be postponed.

This comes after the department announced that 523 learners and 1 169 school staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, at the weekend, the department said at least 775 schools across the country have been impacted by the pandemic.

Sadtu general-secretary, Mungwena Maluleka, says some schools are struggling to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We need to review the strategy in terms of the reopening of the schools, the number of learners that are supposed to be joining on the 6th July. We can’t be blind to the fact that schools are struggling. We’ve got to understand what steps and interventions we are going to take if we are to increase the number of learners that will be coming.”

“It had to be discussed today with the department on whether we are going to phase in one grade or wait a little, especially in the hotspots, to ensure that the schools are able to deal with the situation,” explains Maluleka.

In the video below, SADTU says schools shouldn’t close because of infections:

No need to close down close: Education Department

The Department of Basic Education says at the moment there is no necessity to close down schools in the country and that the situation is being monitored closely.

The department says in some instances learners attending schools have been infected by their parents. More than 700 teachers and just under 90 learners have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Western Cape, while in Gauteng 246 learners and educators have tested positive.

There are concerns over the rising number of infections at schools countrywide after Grade 7 and 12 learners returned to school at the beginning of the month. Grades R, 3, 6, 10 and 11 and their teachers will also be back at school from 6 July.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga quoted the President as saying that the responsibility now rests with individuals to adhere to the strict hygiene and social distancing measures.

“The President, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Basic Education have all been saying that if there’s a need to change that decision, the decision will be changed, right now we are saying we will provide support to schools. We have realised that even with the management of cases there are inconsistencies, that’s why we are working on a manual now for possible outbreaks.”

“The President made it very clear that it is in our hands, all of us, we have a responsibility to monitor every day where there are challenges. We review and take different decisions, we are not insisting we’ll keep schools open if there are problems. If there are serious challenges of course the decision will be made to close down schools.”