While some local schools are steaming ahead with online learning, learners from government schools and higher education students need to wait a bit longer to hear what will happen to their academic year after a briefing by the government, scheduled for Monday 27 April, was postponed.

Last week the Department of Basic Education (DBE) encouraged pupils to continue working on their lessons in partnership with the SABC, telecommunication companies, and even local radio stations which communicate lessons to pupils in all areas of the country.

Despite last week’s announcement that the government plans to gradually phase in learning after the lockdown, it seems as if it’s not all plain sailing for the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education.

On Monday the Teachers’ Union, SADTU said in a press release that parents, students and pupils were still unsure about what Lockdown Level 4 meant for the education sector, but that it believed pupils in some grades would be allowed to return to school.

“Above all, we are concerned about the readiness of the provincial departments with regard to the availability of health and safety essentials that have to be put in place in the learning institutions at least two weeks before any activity can take place,” SADTU said, adding that “We need to do our best to avoid widening any existing learning gaps during the remote learning period”.

SADTU General-Secretary Mugwena Maluleke said there was no view towards scrapping the entire academic year and that the union wanted to collaborate with the government to make sure the year could be recovered.

However, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), which represents 10 000 members serving the education sector in the Western Cape, said on Monday that a survey sent to all its members in the Western Cape overwhelmingly rejected a return to school until it was safe to do so.

“Most of our members are in favour of the indefinite closure of schools until COVID-19 is brought under control. Some respondents indicated that it was too late to salvage the academic year,” Naptosa said in a statement.

According to the organisation, social distancing would be difficult to manage if schools reopened and it was therefore in favour of a phased-in approach. Schools need to be deep cleansed; sanitation stations need to be erected and testing facilities, including digital thermometers need to be made available together with facemasks for learners and staff, Naptosa said.

At the time of going to press no indication had been given on when the government briefing on the rest of the academic year would take place.

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