1 At this stage, only about 12% of our elementary schools can meet these instructions.
3 On Tuesday, the Minister of Basic Education confirmed in a statement issued that there are currently no plans to change the current Guidelines issued by the Department of Basic Education in terms of the Disaster Management Regulations, except in relation to the number of spectators in campuses. school sports. There have also been no other changes to the Disaster Management Regulations that affect schools.
5 This means that even though the Minister of Education has stated, in Instructions issued in July last year, that all primary schools must return to full attendance and follow a risk-adjusted approach depending on the direction it is taking. the pandemic, this has not happened. Part of the reason is that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister Dlamini Zuma, promulgated a regulation on July 30, 2021 that establishes that the measure of social distancing in elementary schools is “reduced to one meter”. By specifying a meter, schools cannot legally ignore it.
6 At this stage, only about 12% of our elementary schools can meet these instructions. That means that approximately 88% of our elementary schools attend school on a rotating basis, despite efforts to return to full attendance.
7 There is strong and growing evidence to suggest that the learning losses experienced by our young people are devastating and will have long-term negative consequences.
8 According to the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) – Rapid Mobile Coronavirus Survey (CRAM) released in May 2021, in 2020, South African primary school children in free schools have learned 50-75% less than they normally learn. In 2021 there have continued to be significant losses of school time, as a result of the rotation of schedules.
9 Various education experts, such as Nic Spaull of the University of Stellenbosch, have repeatedly called for an end to the rotating model, as its continued implementation could result in a “lost generation” of students. Spaull has indicated that, according to projections, the average third grader in June 2021 knows about the same as the average second grader in 2019!
10 Other areas of concern are the fact that many students are not able to access the feeding program as often as they should, and that intermittent school attendance is contributing to a higher dropout rate.
11 Additionally, there has also been a great psychosocial impact on our students, teachers, and even parents. Implementing a rotating model in schools is not easy. It requires dedicated planning and continuous pressure to keep up with the curriculum while teaching different groups of students on different days.
12 It also creates a lot of stress on parents, who need to make sure their children are supervised and that they are maintaining their @home education programs. WCED has been inundated with complaints from parents wanting the rotation to end.
13 The Minister said that they are exploring possibilities to return schooling to normal, “but we must do so responsibly.”
14 We agree and believe that the responsible time to do so is now.
16 As early as July last year, there was a strongly worded Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) recommendation stating the devastating impact of rotating schooling and urging that at least elementary schools should return to full-time work, regardless of the distancing requirement. .
17 Since then, there seems to be broad agreement in the health fraternity that the most important preventive measures are vaccination, masks, and avoiding unventilated spaces. In addition, according to the most recent data provided by the Western Cape Department of Health, the Western Cape has passed the peak of the fourth wave, which was significantly less severe than the second and third waves. So has the rest of the country.
18 Our data analysis has also shown that vaccines remain highly effective in preventing serious illness and, together with the use of masks and ensuring good ventilation, will be sufficient steps to normalize our response to the virus. All teachers have had access to the vaccine, and the number of hospitalizations has been much lower than in previous waves, and the number of deaths even lower. The vaccine has also been made available to all children over the age of 12, since MAC’s July advisory to relax the one-meter rule.
19 In an analysis of all these factors, it is clear that the risks to the future of our youth are much greater than the risks posed by COVID-19. The pandemic has changed in the last two years, and now we must return to a state of normalcy.
20 Depriving our children the opportunity to attend full-time school in the current circumstances is no longer justified and, to avoid a generational catastrophe, we call on the DBE and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to undertake the Necessary changes to the Regulations and Instructions to ensure that we can begin to offset the devastating losses that have already been incurred, and that will take years to remedy.
21 We will follow all necessary processes to carry this forward in the interest of everyone in the Western Cape.