South Africa’s school year should extend into 2021 alongside universities: union

The Public Servants Association (PSA), a trade union which represents thousands of educators and administrative staff, says that the country’s schools should be closed after a surge in the coronavirus infection rate.

Should schools remain open and all grades return, some 18 million learners will move around daily to attend school. This will result in more parents and other family members being exposed to the virus, the union said.

“With more grades returning to the schooling system and the current infection rate increasing steeply, more educators and supports staff will run the risk of being infected.

“There is no rationale for limiting the number of people who attend church services and funerals, but schools with more than 1,000 learners will be open. Many schools now have deceased educators and learners who are traumatised.”

The union added that plans to continue with the academic year also ‘fail to make sense’ when considering that the Higher Education sector has already amended its current academic year to only conclude in March 2021.

“With the new student intake only taking place from March 2021, the Department of Basic Education effectively has leeway until early 2021 to conclude the academic year.”

The union said that currently, schools will continue to open and close owing to infections in schools with a severely disrupting impact on teaching and learning.

“The PSA, therefore, urges President Ramaphosa to urgently intervene and close schools and amend the academic year for schools to coincide with the Higher Education sector to curtail the spread of the virus to lessen the impacts on the health system and prevent the loss of lives.”

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) published a directive on 7 July which outlines the new return dates for South African schools.

The directive further splits the return of pupils with some students now set to return as late at 31 August.

The most recently gazetted calendar for schools shows that the school year is currently expected to finish on 15 December.

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South Africa’s school year should extend into 2021 alongside universities: union