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.”
The Department says a significant dropout rate is expected when schools fully reopen. This could be due to various factors such as parents who have not been working during the nationwide lockdown, being unable to pay school fees or fear of their child contracting the coronavirus.
Mhlanga says, “A lot of young people are looking to finishing school, especially those that are in Grade 12. They want to leave school. I could share with you all the Whatsapp messages that we are getting from young people who say I cannot afford to repeat Grade 12. Those are in Grade 7 as well are saying I want to go to big school. And lot of people are saying open up our schools, our children to be sitting at home. Of course, there will be long term social effects if schools are not opened already, some people will not be going back, a huge dropout rate is expected.”
Schools urged to stick to COVID-19 protocols as cases rise