NATIONAL NEWS - The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa, Naptosa, says it would be irresponsible to keep schools open in the period lying ahead.
“We are calling for the closure coupled with a plan on how to take the school year to a close. A period of closure should not be wasted,” said the executive director, Basil Manuel, in a press release earlier today, 15 July.
Manuel said that The National Standing Committee (NSC) of Naptosa met yesterday in preparation for a meeting that the union would attend with the Minister of Basic Education today.
Naptosa wishes to offer their assistance to the minister and the Department of Basic Education to draft such a plan, which will be ready for implementation once it is evident that a flattening of the Covid-19 infection curve has been reached. “Specific attention should be given to the issue of assessments and the position of our matriculants, and other grades, for whom it will be essential to complete the academic year.”
Manuel said the re-closure of schools might be disruptive, but Naptosa is not prepared to compromise the physical and mental health of their members, as well as whole communities, under the current circumstances.
Manuel named a few of the matters to be discussed in the meeting. The first is the fact that a substantial number of schools have still not reopened, as a result of the required non-pharmaceutical measures not being in place.
The battle to keep open those schools that have re-opened while staff members or learners are testing positive daily, requiring closure again, is equally disturbing.
The quality of PPEs supplied to some schools is also being questioned. They are worried about the serious psychological effect that the exponential number of infections is having on teachers, education support personnel and learners. They also want to discuss the changing science which now supports the possibility that there could be an airborne spread of the virus and an indication that the quarantine period could be shorter than initially established. And lastly, the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that schools should not remain open when the expected peak of the pandemic in a country is at hand.
Manuel said as recently as 1 July, Naptosa has cautioned the Minister and her department on the return to school of the next cohort of learners. The implored the Minister not to be fixated on the school calendar and to read the signs of the times. “She was called on to take sober decisions based on the body of evidence available at any given time. Considering the abovementioned issues debated by the NSC, it is clear that the time to read the signs is here,” said Manuel.
The NSC agonised over the current situation and the wisdom of keeping schools open in the face of the current projections that indicate that provinces will reach the peak of infections at different times between the end of July and late September.
Having considered all the available information, the NSC decided that Naptosa should call on the Minister, as unfortunate as it will be, to close schools, as per the advice of the WHO, until the peak of the pandemic has passed. Manuel says this is essential if they are to protect the physical and mental health of teachers, education support personnel, learners and parents, who are already taking acute strain, while, in the President’s words, we are now heading into “the storm”.
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