Covid-19 hits more than 150 SA schools

The social distancing demarcations are clear at Siyathuthuka Primary School in Mtubatuba in KZN. SA schools have been hard hit by the pandemic./SANDILE NDLOVU
The social distancing demarcations are clear at Siyathuthuka Primary School in Mtubatuba in KZN. SA schools have been hard hit by the pandemic./SANDILE NDLOVU

More than 150 schools were forced to shut down as a result of Covid-19 infections across six provinces in the country.

In the Western Cape, education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the number of schools closed or open changes every day.

"Last Monday, 18 schools were closed, on Wednesday it was 15, Friday there were 28 and yesterday [Wednesday] 10 schools were closed for decontamination. A school that closed yesterday may be opened today, depending on the cleaning process," he said.

Hammond said that there were approximately 160 schools that reported they had a staff member who tested positive for Covid-19.

"However, in some cases the staff member had not even set foot on the school grounds and other cases may be reported on a Friday and therefore cleaning takes place over the weekend and thus not affecting teaching and learning," he said.

KwaZulu-Natal education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the province had 36
reported cases of Covid-19 in schools.

"Of these cases, 28 are confirmed in 10 of 12 education districts in the province affecting 33 schools," he said. Mahlambi said 14 of these schools were ready to open on Monday.

Limpopo education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said there were two schools that did not open on Monday last week as a precautionary measure following
reports of suspected cases.

"We only had one school that was closed on Wednesday after a learner tested positive for Covid-19," she said.

In the North West, there are 14 schools that have had to close as the result of reported cases of Covid-19.

North West education MEC Maphefo Matsemela said all the closed schools were going to be reopened once they had been decontaminated and disinfected.

In the Northern Cape, there were 19 schools that did not open in the first week because they had to be deep-cleaned.

Northern Cape education spokesperson Lehuma Ntuane said the schools were at the provincial epicentre of the pandemic.

"We used the first week to disinfect those schools and on Wednesday most of them were ready for reopening. There were only four schools that could not reopen as a result of the strong smell of the disinfection chemicals and they will open on Monday next week," Ntuane said.

According to the standard operating procedure of the department of basic education, if a school closes as a result of Covid-19, the school should
review continuity plans.

"The school should also implement e-learning plans, including digital and distance learning options. It can also determine, in consultation with the district offices if necessary, how to convert face-to- face lessons into online lessons and how to train educators to do so."

Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said there were seven schools in the province that have closed so far. The Eastern Cape closed 77 schools last week. Gauteng and the Eastern Cape did not respond to enquiries yesterday.

Department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said closing of schools does not mean it is the end.

"The schools are only closed for the period of disinfection and teachers can follow the
department's standard of operation and they can also give learners homework to do for the time being," he said.

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