Pupils sent back home as schools reopen

Pupils at Winnie Mandela Secondary School in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni./ Michele Spatari/ afp
Pupils at Winnie Mandela Secondary School in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni./ Michele Spatari/ afp

Ntokozo Manana woke up at 4am yesterday to prepare herself for the first day back at school, but was one of the grade 12 and 7 pupils who were turned away.

Manana, 17, from Palm Springs in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, was one of thousands of returning pupils after schools had been closed for almost three months.

Manana left home just before 6am to catch a taxi to Raphela Secondary School as she had to be there at 7.15am for screening and sanitising.

"I had been nervous the whole of Sunday evening as a result. I did not get enough sleep. I did not want to be late on the first day of school as I did not know what to expect. However, when I got to school there was a long queue of pupils outside the school entrance. It was only teachers who were allowed to go inside the school," she said.

Manana said after two hours they were told to go back home because the five thermometers were not working.

"I am disappointed because I thought they were going to use this day for induction. Who knows what will be the problem tomorrow," she said.

Grade 7 pupils from Nomini Primary School who were to be accommodated at Raphela Secondary School were also sent home.

Lillian Mohau, 35, the parent of a grade 7 pupil, said she was disappointed.

"We were made to wait outside the school with no explanation. The situation is nerve- wrecking because we don't know what to expect. I am worried about my child having to wear a mask the whole day, I don't know what the implications of that are," Mohau said.

But most schools in Gauteng were ready for the first day. There were demarcated lines outside schools to observe social distancing between pupils. Different desks were placed outside for sanitising, screening and recording information.

Most parents accompanied their children up to the gate as the schools were clear that they were not allowed inside.

A group of parents stood outside Job Maseko Primary School in Ekurhuleni where their children were queuing outside waiting to be screened.

Phumzile Msimango said they wanted to go inside to see if everything was in order and also see the state of the toilets.

"The principal is refusing us entry. The situation is nerve- wrecking and we are here to assess the situation and get used to this new normal. But I must say I am very happy with how the teachers are handling the situation," she said.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the province recorded 85% attendance of pupils and teachers.

"Some principals . closed schools due to misunderstanding on the availability of scanners or screeners. We did experience some teething problems as we had several incidents of break-ins and vandalism."

Lesufi said some schools claimed they had shortages of personal protective equipment.

"We also had a number of teachers who did not attend, claiming to have comorbidity but they had not applied to work from home. A number of teachers submitted medical reports without application or filling in a sick leave."

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