IFP Urges Government to Take a Safety-first Approach to Reopening Schools

STATEMENT BY
SIPHOSETHU NGCOBO MP
IFP SECRETARY GENERAL &
SPOKESPERSON ON BASIC EDUCATION

The IFP believes that schools should only reopen when thresholds in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 are reached and that absolute certainty is guaranteed that all school children are safe and school facilities secured.

We support a safety-first approach to the reopening of schools as the lives of young learners, scholars and students are more valuable and important than the academic year.

The academic-year can be replaced, but the lives of young learners lost cannot. It is shocking that the Department has walked backed its plan as tabled in a virtual parliamentary portfolio committee report but we welcome governments return to making more sensible and measured considerations in reopening schools.

We believe that government cannot place the cart before the horse without ensuring that the following measures are put in place in order for schools to reopen:

  • The Department of Health ramps up testing, tracking and tracing for Covid-19;
  • The Department of Health ensures that emergency medical facilities and enough beds are in place to manage with an influx of patients;
  • The daily death rate is dropping;
  • Infection rates are falling to manageable levels;
  • There are sufficient supplies of testing and protective equipment for teachers, learners and school support staff;
  • There is no risk of a “second peak” of infections;
  • School facilities are thoroughly disinfected;
  • School classrooms seat no more than 20 learners per class; and
  • Scholar transport facilities are increased and monitored.

It’s a safety-first approach and once these requirements have been met, a date could be set for schools to re-open.

What is crucial is that schools are able to reopen in a manner which inspires confidence among staff, pupils and parents – and that it is as safe as possible.

The Department must consider public consultation and public-buy in before going ahead with any plan to phase in learners at schools in order to save the academic year.

We support a phased reopening and appeal to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to reconsider the May 6th date for grades 7 and 12 to return to school.
The IFP’s study group on Basic Education held a teleconference yesterday and made proposals as follows –

The IFP proposes the following dates subject to the abovementioned conditions being met in order to reopen school doors:

We firmly believe that the Department of Education must use the Month of May to work on the proposals for screening, sanitizing and preparing the schooling environment for teaching and learning across the country.

1 May – 31 May: Preparing Healthcare/School Facilities
First Week of June: Grade 12
Third Week of June: Grade 7
First Week of July: Grades 6 + 11
Third Week of July: Grades 5 +10 + 9
First Week of August: Grades 4 + 8 + 3
Third Week of August: Grades 2 + 1
First Week of September: Grade R (resumption of ordinary school year)

It is essential that the department take into consideration the inequalities that exist in the public schooling system and the various challenges faced by the provinces, districts and school management zones in which attention must be brought to. Water, sanitation, and screening capabilities must be guaranteed at all schools across the country.

The IFP furthermore proposes that the Department of Education together with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies strongly consider the roll out of educational programming on television and radio, in particular community radio stations, relating to the current curriculum for grades which remain at home in order to bridge the digital divide where learners may not have access to internet, a laptop or mobile device.

This may act as a tutoring and digital classroom setting on the public broadcaster.

Our proposed three week gap for phasing in schooling is in order to trial properly the grades and schools readiness for reopening and to use the weeks in order to improve on systems which may experiences difficulties.

The monitoring and evaluation capabilities of the department of education is critical to ensure the safety of learners.

Contact:
Siphosethu Ngcobo MP
IFP Secretary General and Spokesperson on Education
082 902 4508

Mkhuleko Hlengwa MP
IFP National Spokesperson
071 111 0539