Motshekga: Schools ready to allow pupils to return to class full time

Rotational learning remains in place in schools across the country with pupils having to keep their desks a meter apart from each other.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga hosted the top achievers at a breakfast session at the Houghton Hotel on 20 January 2021. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey Makhaza/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - While there's no indication on when or if some of the Disaster Management Act regulations will be amended again, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Monday said schools would be ready by next month should more children be allowed back into the classroom.

Rotational learning remains in place in schools across the country, with pupils having to keep their desks a meter apart from each other.

However, health experts are calling for all pupils to be allowed back on school grounds, at the same time warning that the tight restrictions are hurting the sector.

“When it's lifted, as a sector, we must be ready to say what is going to be our next plan.”

If Motshekga has her way, social distancing in schools will be scrapped.

She and her team are busy visiting schools, advising teachers and staff on what changes need to be made to ensure good ventilation and proper infrastructure.

“The way we go shoulder to shoulder in shops, they might end up shoulder by shoulder in schools but strengthen the protocols.”

The Disaster Management Act currently only allows children to be a meter apart from each other but in some schools where infrastructure doesn't allow it, children have to take turns on which days they are allowed at school.

DUE PROCESSES WILL BE FOLLOWED

The Basic Education Department said its officials were preparing schools for the return of full-time pupil attendance should regulations for social distancing in classrooms be adjusted.

Motshekga said submissions had been made to propose that social distancing in classrooms be lowered from one to half a meter or even scrapped but so far, no decision had been taken yet by the Department of Health.

"We can’t just wake up on a Monday morning and say everybody back to class.”

Schools have to come up with plans to ensure that the windows and doors can open properly for ventilation and there are enough desks and chairs to accommodate the pupils.