Article by Dumi Mbona

The Department of Basic Education has been nothing but a circus during the deadly pandemic.

The deadly pandemic seems to be exposing cracks and inadequacy in the Department of Education. It started with the online teaching program where celebrities were selected to conduct online classes while sidelining qualified teachers. #Celebritiesarenotteachers trended on social media after couple of celebrities made mistakes and showed lack of experience in conducting such classes.

Teachers felt that the profession was insulted by this and took to social media to voice their unhappiness.

Now they want to reopen schools amidst of the deadly pandemic…go figure.

South Africans have been asked to play a leading role in the fight against the deadly pandemic of Covid-19 by staying at home, keeping social distancing and good hygiene. Schools were the first to close due to reported cases of learners with Covid-19, this presented a clear sign that schools could become the breeding grounds for the virus to spread.  

The past few days have seen Cases of Covid-19 rising in high numbers. Experts have said that South African cases will peak around June, July and August as we enter the winter season.

There has been a debate on whether schools and other education institutions should reopen now or not. Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Professor Jonathan Jansen provided a proposal suggesting that the 2020 school year must be scrapped. This suggestion was vehemently dismissed by the Spokes Person of the Department of Basic Education Mr. Elijah Mhlanga on the radio Talk show The Updated Noon on SA FM.

TMS Mag decided to conduct telephonic interviews with people on the ground in schools and tertiary institutions and here is what they had to say:

Pamela Karabo Lenkena from Howick Secondary School.

Well I find it slightly unethical cause most schools don’t have the material needed to make sure the school is safe and it’s also slightly impossible for middle class schools to practice social distancing in classrooms; our classrooms are small and have an average of about 30 learners in each class.

I don’t understand how this is going to work? The D. O. E has said that teachers with chronic health can ask for leave and not to go back to school because of the risks of getting the virus. And to actually think of it most schools are taught by teachers who are in their 40’s with chronic health issues.

The question is how many teachers are going to teach then?

Since matrics and grade 7’s are said to open on the 6th of May who is going to teach them? Are there going to be enough teachers to teach all of their subjects?

And let’s say some teachers really apply for leave due to their health, when will their replacements be found? And also we aren’t sure that every single student going back to school is negative of the Corona Virus; what if going back to school will just make the infected number of people rise? And it is a known fact that not everyone will be able to afford sanitizers and stuff.  And for those who travel by bus to school how sure are we that the buses are being sanitized and safe?  

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It would’ve been better if students were going back to school once the numbers of reported cases have lessen or better yet if they have found a possible treatment/cure for the virus; if you think about this properly many students are going to go to school and let’s say they get infected, they’ll go back home with the virus to infect their families and so on; and they’ll go back to school again, probably infect someone else and the cycle goes on. Will South Africa have enough beds to cater for the increasing number of people? Do we even have enough capital to take care of the hospitalized people? I’m just really not sure about this whole thing.

Mr. Linford Molaodi, TeaSterl Project founder, (TeaSterl supports educators in rural areas using ICTs )

With the current workforce, we’re not ready to open schools or universities. This crisis will help our leadership to establish as to what type of people we want to lead our education. So if we reopen schools now, there will be negligence like we have seen before the virus, only now people’s lives are at stake.

Learners in rural areas walk to and from school, who will be there to ensure that they keep to social distancing? Who is going to make sure that they do not share food items and other stuff? Are we able to provide transportation that will ensure social distancing occurs? Screening is not enough because some people have no symptoms of the virus.

Now there is stigma that goes with this virus and most people will hide and never go to see a doctor for testing. In my district we recently had our first case of covid-19 and that person passed away within few days, now this person has interacted with lots of people before showing symptoms, among those people are traditional healers. Now if this is the case in our communities how much more individual negligence when schools reopen?

We may have a good presentation on paper but who is going to implement? And how are we going to make sure that there are not mistakes in implementation? We are not ready to open schools

Anonymous Grade 7 Educator in KZN

Safety measures are non-existence in our schools, before the virus, schools were already in a bad condition. Already we have overcrowding in classrooms, 3 children sharing one desk, 2 meters social distancing is impossible.

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In other countries they are sanitizing schools and cities; we have not heard any official suggesting that schools must be sanitized. Should the Department go ahead with the reopening of schools, they will be sending us to a suicide mission.

Schools have been a graveyard before the deadly pandemic, now they’ll be a place of disaster. Most of the learners live with grannies that may not pay too much attention to the hygiene of a child and by nature children are negligent, so the grannies at home are not safe. We are going into the winter season, this deadly pandemic thrives in such conditions, and it will be difficult to tell between the normal flu and the Corona Virus.

The Department needs not to rush the reopening of schools, maybe after the winter season we can look at reopening schools. Learners are reckless they will definitely be carriers of the virus; now sending us to work in such environment is suicidal.

We love our learners, our country and our communities, we miss our kids but this is not a good time. We have respected the lockdown regulations only to be sent to the future epicenter of the virus. If we want a way forward, let’s allow Grade 12 to go back to school at least they are mature enough adhere to regulations.

We respect the online learning, but our kids are not able to concentrate with the teacher in front of them, how are they going to concentrate or be disciplined on the phone? We have to reconsider our options here

Khutso Malema CPUT Student.

It will be difficult to reopen schools now, most students travelled home before the lockdown, now they will be that issue of travelling back to other provinces which will create another dilemma.

In as much as other students are in their homesteads where network and data may be an issue, E-Learning is the only viable option. Officials can make an effort to get those students onto the online learning programs, most students have smart phones, the Department of Higher Education and cell-phone network companies need to get together and provide solutions.

deadly Pandemic

We have reached out to our lecturers asking them to reduce the amount of files loaded online so that we don’t use too much data. Whatsapp groups set up to help continue studying. We won’t have the time to catch up to our work, so let’s make E-learning possible.

The deadly virus moves through people, but if people are not moving around, the virus will not move. It’s difficult to be always be mindful of what we touch, the best is to not go around, and if universities open we’ll be forced to go from one place to another which will increase chances for contamination

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Mathapelo Makgaka, Genesis (organization assisting primary schools in Marikana).

From my point of view we are not ready. In some of the schools we are working with, we have found that learners still find it hard to afford the full school uniform, and now we want them to afford face masks.

Our schools are not equipped to handle this deadly pandemic. Our officials are not able to help with school jerseys during winter and we expect them to help with face masks and gloves? Not possible.

Hygiene is going to be a disaster. If that’s what they eventually decide to do, teachers will need to be assisted because their duties will shift from raising future leaders into front-liners in the fight against this deadly pandemic. I was in hospital recently, and there were hygiene issues in the female bathrooms where other patients peed on the bathtub, now if hospitals struggle with issues of hygiene, what’s going to happen in our schools?

Amanda Kethwa, Rhenish Girls High.

According to various reports this morning, apparently the department is ready to reopen schools. In my school social distancing may be a challenge because I live in a girl’s hostel with over 150 other learners. Hygiene is possible to maintain as long as we properly educated to do so.

From Matric’s perspective we are behind with school and Syllabus, however we don’t want to risk our lives or spread the virus by going back to school too soon. I am anxious about catching up with school work; but I’m also worried about increasing chances of catching the virus which could sicken or even kill people who are less immune to it.

Anonymous H.O.D in Gauteng

The status is articulated correctly and firmly so. Inferences and comparison are null and void to compare us with Denmark, Hongkog and other vastly developed countries. Department has to engage extensively. I even bemoaned the absence of the voice of parentage in the form of SGB. Some Cdes on the portal serve on such bodies. Their contribution would help in mitigating and ameliorating the situation.

School will go on, and no year could be lost, mechanism could still be placed. Learners have a base in the form of March exams. These have been written and probably these could be tied with November December.  Examination would thus be on what learners have covered in that period. Then the following year, some aspects and skills could be carried over to the next level and be solidified and modified in the next grade.

Not all is lost. But everything has to be above board. We are saying *NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US* EQUALLY PARENTS SHOULD ALSO BE SAYING *NOTHING ABOUT OUR KIDS WITHOUT US*

Deadly Pandemic

By The Editor

Dumi Mbona is a founder of TMS Mag, an Author. Worked as a schools' youth Life Coach and KZN Youth Parliament Facilitator under the KZN Office of the Premier the Office on the Right of the Child.