The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says that a significant number of primary schools around the country remain on rotational timetables, with many schools also applying to keep a rotational timetable in place in 2022.
The reason for the rotation is a directive from Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma providing that social distancing measures in primary schools should be maintained at one meter, the commission said.
The SAHRC said it has also been made aware that most schools in the Western Cape (86%) have applied for rotational timetables for the 2022 academic year.
“The commission holds that rotational learning has a long-lasting negative impact on learning outcomes for children and, as the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (MAC) advice states, that the harms of learners attending school on a rotational basis – specifically the severe cognitive, nutritional, and psychosocial costs – exceed the benefits of reduced Covid-19 infections from smaller class sizes.
“The Cogta directive compromises the ability of primary schools – where the very foundation of learning takes place – to return to normal teaching and learning, notwithstanding reduced transmission and virus acquisition rates among teachers and learners in these schools as the majority of educators have been vaccinated and due to the low acquisition risk profile of primary school learners.”
The SAHRC said that it agrees with the MAC that all primary schools should open at full capacity.
The commission said it has now written to the basic education minister, the health minister, and the Cogta minister to call for an urgent meeting to discuss the termination of rotation in primary schools.
“This would essentially mean that the Cogta minister needs to amend her directive by deleting the 1-meter social distancing requirement in respect of primary schools.
“We will also discuss the return to normal schools for high schools, in view of the fact that the Department of Health has commenced with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for 12-year-olds,” the commission said.