Daily Dispatch

One pupil at school, 136 stayed home

- GUGU PHANDLE EDUCATION REPORTER gugup@dispatch.co.za Additional reporting by Prega Govender

One pupil out of 137.

That was the attendance register for Grade 11 at Waban Senior Secondary School in Ngqeleni on Monday as school attendance numbers in the province continue to plummet.

Monday was the official return date of more than 256,000 pupils in Grades 3, 6 and 11 in the Eastern Cape. Some schools had chosen to remain operationa­l.

Pupils, teachers and parents have been at sixes and sevens over the reopening of schools since June 1. The department of basic education is still mulling whether to send children home amid the demand of teacher unions for schools to be closed again. Confusion and anxiety over Covid-19 at schools have caused many parents to keep their children home.

The Eastern Cape CEO of the National Profession­al Teachers’ Organisati­on of SA (Naptosa), Loyiso Mbinda, who informed the Dispatch of the Waban statistic, said Grade 3 had seen the biggest decline in attendance. “Anxiety among parents is on the rise and you can see the stance they’ve taken through the crippling attendance numbers.”

Other Eastern Cape schools also had low attendance numbers on Monday. These included Mount Nicholas Junior Secondary in Libode, where three of 180 Grade 6s returned; Mavubeza Primary in Ngqeleni, where seven of 67 Grade 6 pupils returned; and Msintsana Junior Secondary in Engcobo, where nine of 27 Grade 6 pupils returned.

Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane has applied to the high court to have schools closed because the country was heading towards its peak in Covid-19 infections.

Speaking to the Dispatch on Tuesday, Maimane said: “Schools have reopened against a health system which is unable to cope with the rise of Covid19 infections. In provinces like the Eastern Cape, we are seeing an exponentia­l rise in infections. It is better to lose the school academic year than to lose lives.”

Maimane, together with his One SA movement, has appealed against a judgment of the North Gauteng High Court which dismissed his applicatio­n to bar schools from reopening.

In Buffalo City Metro, two out of 29 Grade R pupils returned to Makhazi Public School on Monday, according to school governing body chair Mxolisi Mbityi. “The two children who returned to school on Monday didn’t come back on Tuesday. So that means we have no Grade R learners at school.”

Parents in the area were “reluctant to take their children back to school because of the growing Covid-19 infections”, he said, adding the school has had three positive Covid-19 cases since it reopened. “Those cases affected teachers.”

Vukuhambe Special School in Mdantsane, which services pupils from Grades 1 to 12, has reopened for its Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils.

SGB chair Amanda Someketa said: “Everything is going all right with the learners who have returned. But we have seen that a lot of learners are not back. ” —

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