Social distancing will not be strictly enforced when students return to school – principals given odd instructions

Social distancing will not be strictly enforced in the classroom when schools return to full-time teaching, the Sunday Times reports, with officials saying it’s more of a ‘guideline’ than a rule.

The Gauteng Education Department reportedly told principals in the province that they will not need to “strictly enforce” one-metre social distancing rules, upon return to school.

Principals were given these instructions during a virtual meeting on school readiness on Thursday last week.

A slide shown during the presentation said that the national standing operating procedures “do not prescribe one-metre spacing but promote the principle of striving for a one-metre distance where possible”.

This assertion contradicts school procedure documents which say that school bodies must ensure social distancing requirements are met.

It comes as president Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation on Sunday evening regarding lockdown.

“As a sector, we have held countless consultative sessions to deliberate on the reopening of schools,” said minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in a national address on Saturday.

“Depending on confirmation by the president tomorrow after Cabinet, as a sector there is agreement across the board, that we are ready for the reopening of schools on Monday, 26 July 2021.”

School management teams and support staff, have already gone back to work, as from Thursday, 22 July 2021, to prepare for the return of learners and teachers on Monday, 26 July 2021, the minister said.

“Based on the information obtained from provinces, schools are ready to continue to work within the established Covid-19 health protocol, also to start resuming full school attendance in the primary schools from the 2 August 2021.

“The sector continues to be committed, and at all times we are ready to maintain a balance between saving lives and livelihoods while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.”

Motshekga reiterated yesterday that schools must still abide by national health protocols.

“Some provinces have already experimented around, even changing seating arrangements – remove desks, get chairs, so if people have chairs and they write on the laps you give them lap-desks,” she said.

“It’s better than getting them to be playing in the streets.”

Vaccines

The minister said that the sector had targeted 582,000 personnel in the Basic Education Sector to be vaccinated, “and when we formally closed the vaccination programme, we recorded 517,000 people, who have received the vaccines – an 89% vaccination success rate”.

“Reports on the reasons for outstanding numbers, include distance to vaccination sites, vaccination hesitancy, preference of one type of vaccine to another, recent positive Covid-19 results, as well as medical and religious reasons – all account for some of the people, who are still not vaccinated,” Motshekga said.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, meanwhile, has announced the formal commencement of the Covid-19 vaccination programme for the post-schooling education and training sector (PSET).

Addressing the media on the Covid-19 vaccination rollout for the PSET sector, the minister said the government will roll out the Pfizer vaccine across all institutions in the major metros where there is good access to cold storage facilities.

“We will be rolling out J&J vaccines across our rural districts as this requires cold storage facilities at higher temperatures than Pfizer and other mRNA vaccines,” Nzimande said on Friday.

The vaccination of PSET staff that are 35 years of age and above will formally commence on Saturday, 24 July 2021. This age group, which comprises approximately 70% of all staff in the sector, is expected to be completed within a month.

A further 12 additional sites across Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town, Gqeberha and eThekwini starting will open from Monday, 26 July.

This will cover over 120,000 staff from universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges and Community Education and Training (CET) colleges in the next two to three weeks.

“These same sites will be extended to private institutions, skills learning sector, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), National Skills Fund (NSF) with a range of skills development providers.

“In this coming week, Higher Health will open an additional 40 to 50 vaccination sites with the Department of Health, across all other districts, for staff populations between 600 and 4,000 to be vaccinated,” the minister said.

A total of 49,589 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours in South Africa, with 12,056 new cases, representing a 24.3% positivity rate. A further 413 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.


Read: Angie Motshekga on the opening of schools, exams and 2023 calendar

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Social distancing will not be strictly enforced when students return to school – principals given odd instructions