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Teacher unions to meet Covid-19 prof to 'talk more about schooling in 2022'

'We are in trouble when it comes to learning losses and we would like to see as many of our kids full-time at school as possible': Naptosa's Basil Manuel

Grade 12 pupils from Unathi High School. Educationists say as many pupils as possible should return to school full-time. File photo.
Grade 12 pupils from Unathi High School. Educationists say as many pupils as possible should return to school full-time. File photo.
Image: Sibongile Ngalwa

Representatives of SA's five teacher unions will be meeting Wits University vaccinology professor Shabir Madhi on Friday to get an update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the implications for schooling.

This comes as schools in inland provinces — Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West — reopened for teachers on Monday. Pupils in these provinces will start the academic year on Wednesday, while their counterparts in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape will return on January 19.

Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said the intention of Friday’s meeting with Madhi was to get an update “so that we can talk more about schooling 2022”.

“It’s about the modalities [rotational learning] that are being used at the moment and whether they should stay. We have our own concerns about the sustainability of the present modalities,” he said.

“We are in trouble when it comes to learning losses and we would like to see as many of our kids full-time at school as possible. But that can only happen if we ensure that the other safety measures are there.”

He said they were aware that the one-metre social distancing requirement in the classroom was not possible for all schools.

“We have to ask if there is still justification for rotational classes.”

While former Model C schools were able to allow all pupils back last year because of having more classrooms and teachers, many pupils at no-fee schools were still after the rotational timetable.

Madhi confirmed that it will be “an information-sharing meeting about where we are in the pandemic and implications for schooling”.

Meanwhile, Limpopo education department spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said information on the percentage of schools that will continue with a rotational timetable is still being processed.

She said the “majority of applicants for admission have been placed in schools”. 

“There are, however, learners, especially in our more urban areas, who are yet to be placed. Our circuit offices have been working with schools since last week to attend to unplaced learners.”

She said there were 22 storm-damaged schools their infrastructure team had conducted assessments on and repairs had been carried out at three of them.

“Additional interventions are being looked at for those with significant damage. These include delivery of mobile classrooms where necessary.”

Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said there were 32,637 teacher posts for 1,671 schools. He said R105m had been transferred to schools for personal protective equipment against Covid-19.

“Learner/teacher support material (LTSM) was distributed to all schools in November/December 2021. It is mandatory that all learners have their stationery by January 12.”

He said 54,249 pupils will be provided with transport to school while 920,110 learners will benefit from the school feeding scheme, at a cost of R771m.

Zwane said a new school, using mobile classrooms, will be established in extension 24 in the Steve Tshwete district, while the construction of 40 classrooms in four schools in Mbombela was under way.

On Friday, the Gauteng education department announced that 276,564 grade 1 and 8 online admissions applicants had been placed while  1,465 applicants remain unplaced.

Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said more than 17,000 applicants did not submit all the necessary supporting documentation.

“These are deemed unsuccessful applications. However, the system is open for them to upload and choose available schools,” he said.

He said the department had prioritised the finalisation of 866 appeals received since the placement period started last year. “These appeals are the result of applicants who could not be placed at their desired school.”

He said the outcome of the appeals would be communicated to applicants by Monday. Parents will still have the option of applying for a place at a school as the late registration process will start on January 12.

Mabona said the department was constructing more classrooms “to deal with the pressure of placement in high-pressure districts”.

The department transferred R240m to schools for the construction of 229 classrooms in primary schools and 270 in high schools.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga will hold a media briefing on the opening of schools on Tuesday.



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