Pretoria school reports smooth, trouble-free return

A teacher at Thoho-Ya-Ndou Primary in Saulsville, Pretoria, attends to his duties yesterday. / Shonisani Tshikalange
A teacher at Thoho-Ya-Ndou Primary in Saulsville, Pretoria, attends to his duties yesterday. / Shonisani Tshikalange

Wearing their masks, some looking anxious and others sanguine as they listened to their teacher addressing them, it was back to school at Pretoria's Thoho-Ya-Ndou Primary after a long time for grades R and 6 yesterday.

The pupils had been at home more than three months, starting from before the national lockdown was announced in late March.

The school in Saulsville has no reported Covid-19 infections.

The principal, Livhuwani Ramano, said the school observed stricter safety protocols than what the pupils are used to at their homes. The school is also providing meals.

"We were bombarded with calls from parents who wanted to bring their children back because they are going back to work," Ramano said.

"It's good to have our learners back today, more so that they'll be able to use the school feeding scheme. Also, the grade R learners have nurses who will be checking them, so that is also of benefit to them.

"In most cases when the learners are at home, we find them playing in the streets with no masks," he said.

Ramano said the school was in the process of substituting three teachers who have "underlying issues".

"I'm glad that the Gauteng education department is allowing us to have substitutions for teachers who are unable to work. We don't want teachers to be dying."

Ramano said that since the first group of grade 7s came back to school in early June, the attendance had been above 90% every day.

"Teachers are giving positive feedback ... they are performing very well," he said.

The acting deputy principal, Patrick Ramantswana, said the school has identified hotspots around it that would be closely monitored to ensure social distancing among pupils.

"We had our doubts at first, when we had to welcome back the first group, whether parents would bring the children. We are doing so well so far.

"We also arranged for our learners to eat inside the classrooms so that we can monitor them. Before we reopened, we allocated monitoring duties to teachers at areas learners would seek to gather in groups.

"These are areas are at the taps, toilets and other out-of-sight spots around the school, to enforce social distancing."

Yesterday, the school was expecting 180 grade R pupils and 162 grade 6 pupils to return. However, only 12 grade Rs turned up, and 99 grade 6 pupils.

Ramano said the low turnout was not unexpected as some parents had been confused about what to do. He said the school was using a rotational timetable.

"For today it's only grade R and grade 6 learners; grade 7s are at home and will come back on Thursday and Friday. We have listened to the parents who wanted to bring back their children."

The school-governing body's treasurer Michael Radzilani said he was satisfied with how the school had been handling pupils and teachers.

"Since they opened there haven't been any concerns or any reported cases, so we are happy as SGB," Radzilani said. "We welcome the two grades today and we are hopeful that more parents will bring back their children. My child also came back today and as a parent I was also worried, but after the assessments, I am happy with how the school is doing."

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