COSAS rejects with contempt the reckless proposal to reopen schools.
Congress Of South African Students (COSAS) issued a statement strongly rejecting the “reckless” proposal tabled by the Department of Basic Education to reopen schools.
Learners must never be used as a litmus test for mass infections and fatalities of the Coronavirus. The Congress of South African Students’ (COSAS) will not allow learners of our country to be put at risk due to poor planning and coordination by the Department of Basic Education. It is clear to us and the whole country that the presentation made to the parliamentary committee shows that they have no plan and want to gamble with the lives of learners.
South African cases of Covid 19 show no signs of slowing down. In just a day of eased restrictions, new cases spiked by 304 with 16 more deaths.
While this proposal is said to be subjected to science; clearly South Africa is no where near it’s peak.
Schools in rural and township areas have been in poor conditions since the dawn of Democracy; the Department of Basic Education seem confident that they will turn this around in just three weeks according to the plan.
COSAS is concerned about saving the academic year especially because this has a direct impact on our future as learners. However, this should never be at the expense of learners and teachers. It is unfortunate that the Minister and her team have not prepared schools adequately for the eventual reopening of the schools. There can be no compromise to the principle that schools must be ready first before reopening.
According to COSAS, the proposal to reopen schools failed to answer the following questions.
- Schools in townships and rural areas have overcrowded classes of more than 60 students. It remains unclear how this issue is to be addressed with the announcement that classes will be limited to 40 students. 40 students in a classroom is still a very high number of social distancing. Most of these schools are understaffed, there is inadequate infrastructure. The department was unable to clearly outline how this is to be addressed except to mention social distancing whereas we know that there is no practical plan. Their plan seems to be based on schools that have resources and not catering to the poor.
- Leaners in our schools share a lot of learning material in class which puts a risk to the social distancing required to prevent infections. There is a plan that has been articulated that deals with this issue. There is no clarity on how teachers are going to be added to facilitate learner under these new conditions.
- The department was unable to explain how they will manage the risks that come with scholar transport which poses a major danger to the spread of this virus. As COSAS we have been raising consistently the problem of scholar transport which is characterized by overloaded vehicles and in other areas nonexistent. If this issue is not adequately addressed learners will be exposed to the virus.
More questions than answers
- We are concerned that there is no clear plan on how PPE will be provided for all learners and teachers in schools. Already the public health system is have raised concerns about insufficient protective equipment. There is no indication of by the 6th of May all schools will be disinfected and how will the screening happen. There is a tendency to ignore rural schools because they are not in the face of the media when there is a distribution of services. As COSAS we remain unclear on the plans to manage infections in schools. We reject the plan to exclude other students from receiving cloth masks based on the failed quintile system.
- Many schools still do not have proper sanitation and water and yet there is no plan to indicate how this will be addressed in light of COVID19. This situation will clearly not change by the 6th
- The department has no plan to ensure that children from working-class and poor schools are not left behind as they stay at home, unlike their counterparts from affluent schools. Even on this “phased reopening plan” no clear mention is made on how the learners from different grades will be supported.
The Minister may have vented about how much consultation went into the plan; but it seems like she has barely touched the people who will be subjected to the conditions on the ground. Cosas urges the Minister to engage learners and teachers to ensure commitment and common approach to saving the school year.
Cosas further urges the Cabinet and President to exercise caution when making the final decision on reopening of schools.
Level 4 lockdown and it’s shockers
South Africans enjoyed eased restrictions yesterday; but sadly painted a picture of a country that is not ready for any eased restrictions!
W. H.O warned against wearing of masks. While many countries including South Africa has made it compulsory to wear masks in public. The dangers of wearing masks have not changed. Which raises more concerns on the reopening of schools.
Yesterday South Africans were allowed to be out and about, but with masks covering mouth and nose. However many people had their masks on the forehead, around their necks, occasionally pulling it back to cover their mouths and necks.
These habits by adults posed more danger, which is why wearing of masks was highly discouraged in the beginning.
Now if adults cannot keep up with proper usage of masks, how much more learners and teachers?
Capetown became a sad sight where people did not observe social distancing.
The Department of Education seem to be confident that will not be the case with Grades 7 & 12 as well as teachers!
COSAS has vowed to make sure that no decisions are taken in exclusion or putting the working class and the poor at risk.