More than half of Mpumalanga's grade R pupils back in class: department

Over 50% of grade R pupils in Mpumalanga public schools showed up for class on Monday.
Over 50% of grade R pupils in Mpumalanga public schools showed up for class on Monday.
Image: 123RF/serezniy

More than half of all grade R pupils registered in Mpumalanga's government schools reported back for class on Monday, the provincial education department said.

Spokesperson Jasper Zwane said: “Overall, grade R attendance was above 50%. We are still monitoring and hopeful that everyone will be safe in our schools.”

Grade R, 6 and 11 pupils were expected to head back to school after a three-month lockdown period due to the coronavirus.

“Overall the department is satisfied with how the phasing in of grade 6 and 11 learners in almost all the schools in the province ... We thank parents for entrusting their children to the department to learn,” said Zwane.

While Zwane did not immediately provide figures, he said many of the schools that did not open had challenges with water and sanitation infrastructure. These were being attended to, he said.

Other schools in the province have been open for grade Rs even before this week. These are schools that had met department's health, safety and social distancing protocols.

One of these schools is Laerskool Kragbron in eMalahleni (Witbank), which opened its gates to grade R to 7 last month. The school pulled out all the stops to get their children back in class — even bringing in a sanitation booth that sprayed the children, along with their bags, thoroughly before entering the school premises.

On Monday, however, the school did not reopen due to a number of teachers testing positive in recent days.

“A combined decision has been made by the department of health, our circuit manager, governing body and school management to close our school as from Monday July 6 to July 10, because of the shortage of staff due to confirmed Covid-19 and isolation cases,” the school said on its Facebook page, alerting its parents.

Gugu Julies, the owner of the private Aquila Academy in eMalahleni, told TimesLIVE that it had been a tough few months and things could still be tougher.

She said only a handful of parents had indicated they would be bringing their children back to school, while others had stopped paying fees — and there were added expenses in reopening.

“We usually share stationary, but now that is not allowed. We will need to add to the stationary we already have,” she said.

The school had previously also encouraged the sharing of toys among pupils, but this too would need to be put on hold.

Julies told TimesLIVE that in addition to paying their utility bill, the school also needed to invest in a non-contact thermometer before opening their doors.

Bridget Mathunjwa, whose child is registered at a preschool in eMalahleni, said she was uncertain about her child's future.

“I am in limbo because I am back at work and she needs an education. My mother is elderly and cannot give her the education she needs while I am at work. But do I gamble with my child's life and trust that things will be OK?” 

Another parent, Mpumelelo Mabena, who has a child registered at Robert Carruthers School, offered a different view.

“These kids are already playing outside at home, so it's the same [at school]. Them heading to school will only be beneficial for them,” he said.


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