DBE talking to unions, Cabinet about decreasing social distancing in class

Primary schools went back to full-time teaching this week but it quickly became apparent that many schools just did not have the space to welcome all learners back and keep them 1m apart.

Picture: @ECDOEZA/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The Basic Education Ministry said that it was talking to unions and Cabinet about the possibility of letting children sit closer together in school.

Primary schools went back to full time teaching this week. But it quickly became apparent that many schools just did not have the space to welcome all learners back and keep them 1m apart.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga has proposed decreasing social distancing to 0.5m.

But unions have baulked at that.

The minister's spokesperson, Hope Mokgatlhe: "Infrastructure issues are major and they have nothing to do with COVID coming to our shores last year. It's a battle between safety first, which we prefer, and also making sure that schooling continues. It's a very fine balance."

President of the South African Paediatric Association, Professor Mignon McCulloch, agreed that there was a balance to be struck.

She said that in terms of the science, there were studies that showed that it was safe to decrease distance to one metre but less than that was not recommended.

"What we are also seeing is that children are almost onto their second year of no education, a lot of children are going hungry because children get meals at school, they're also not safe from physical and psychological point of view, so it really is a risk-benefit ratio as to whether you keep children out for a second year as opposed to getting them to school in some sort of ordered environment."

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