One pupil at school, 136 stayed home

Daily Dispatch - - Front Page - 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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