Le­sufi al­lays fears

MEC out­lines elab­o­rate safety plan for learn­ers, teach­ers on the eve of re­open­ing schools

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - TE­BOGO MONAMA te­bogo.monama@inl.co.za

THE GAUT­ENG Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment has moved fast to al­lay par­ents’ fears ahead of the re­open­ing of schools with a safety plan tai­lor-made to pro­tect learn­ers and teach­ers from the coro­n­avirus.

Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi yes­ter­day em­pha­sised that the depart­ment will put the safety of teach­ers and learn­ers first.

Le­sufi said Gaut­eng has hired 7 000 youth brigades who will sani­tise learn­ers and teach­ers. They will fur­ther en­sure that ev­ery­one wears a mask at all times, and that so­cial-dis­tanc­ing reg­u­la­tions are ad­hered to.

This week, Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga an­nounced that Grade 7 and Grade 12 learn­ers will be the first group to go back to class on June 1.

As part of the safety plan in the townships, gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers have also been roped in to do health in­spec­tions at the schools.

“Prin­ci­pals will be the first peo­ple to ar­rive at the schools. They will col­lect per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment (PPE). Be­fore the prin­ci­pal col­lects the PPE, they will also get tested. Once the PPE for teach­ers has ar­rived, the prin­ci­pals will then call them to come to the school,” he said.

Le­sufi said learn­ers will be given three masks a week.

“We might not have the bud­get to pro­vide them with new masks daily, that’s why we are giv­ing them weekly. The only chal­lenge will be the first day. We urge par­ents to give their chil­dren masks to wear as a tem­po­rary mea­sure,” he said.

Re­gard­ing teach­ers who are older or have co­mor­bidi­ties, the depart­ment would hire sub­sti­tutes teach­ers.

“We are hav­ing in­ter­views with the older teach­ers, ask­ing if they want to come back to school. If they don’t want to we will bring sub­sti­tute teach­ers in their place,” he said.

Le­sufi said the depart­ment was also look­ing into ways to sup­port learn­ers with dis­abil­i­ties.

He said in prepa­ra­tion for the re­open­ing of schools, the depart­ment will deep-clean all fa­cil­i­ties. He said each school will have to pro­vide proof or a cer­tifi­cate af­ter dis­in­fect­ing or they will not be able to re­open. About 1 752 schools will each re­ceive about R15 000 for this pur­pose, while about 577 schools will be dis­in­fected for free by a pri­vate com­pany.

He also as­sured that all schools will have re­li­able wa­ter sup­ply by next month.

Some of the other changes that the depart­ment has in­tro­duced in­clude no vis­i­tors be­ing al­lowed in schools, and one en­trance and exit be­ing used.

Le­sufi said from Mon­day to Fri­day next week, par­ents will be able to make their in­put on the depart­ment’s plans to re-open the schools.

“Gaut­eng be­lieves the open­ing of the schools must not be a prod­uct only of the gov­ern­ment but of South Africans. Par­ents can add or sub­tract what­ever they want in the plan. There might be some­thing we missed,” Le­sufi said.

He said par­ents will also be able to visit their chil­dren’s schools for an “open day” on May 31.

“Par­ents have the right to visit our schools to check that ev­ery­thing is ready,” Le­sufi said, adding that dur­ing the open day par­ents will be able to check that schools have enough PPE, and that there is wa­ter, and mea­sures are in place for so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Le­sufi said he un­der­stood that some par­ents might be wor­ried about send­ing their chil­dren back to school

“We will be ac­com­mo­dat­ing all par­ents. Those who say they can’t take the risk, we are open­ing the op­tion of home­school­ing for them. We be­lieve there will be par­ents who want this but they have to ap­ply to the depart­ment for this. We will give them the sup­port. Those who want to con­tinue learn­ing on­line will also have that op­tion,” Le­sufi said.

Dur­ing the lock­down, sev­eral schools were bro­ken into or van­dalised. Le­sufi said re­pairs will be done at those schools.

He also said that peo­ple who will be serv­ing learn­ers with school feed­ing schemes were un­der­go­ing train­ing.

Mot­shekga has re­ceived crit­i­cism over the de­ci­sion to re­open schools across the coun­try.

Ad­dress­ing this, Le­sufi said: “The de­ci­sion to open schools or close schools falls with the pres­i­dent of the coun­try. The pres­i­dent of the coun­try del­e­gated that au­thor­ity to the min­is­ter.

“And the min­is­ter ex­e­cuted this by con­ven­ing a meet­ing with all the MECs and in that meet­ing each prov­ince was re­quested to make a pre­sen­ta­tion. She con­sulted all pro­vin­cial MECs. This was not an in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sion,” he said.

GAUT­ENG ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi.

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