Covid cases rise as some learners expected to return to school full time in July

Primary school learners are expected to attend school daily from July, but Covid-19 cases are surging, forcing some schools to close. 

On Friday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gazetted that, as of 26 July, all primary learners (grades R to seven) will be attending school daily, as opposed to the rotation system that has been in place since last year. Learners at special educational needs schools, from grades R to 12, would also be returning to school full time. 

However, Motshekga said the return to full-time schooling for these groups of learners would be determined by the direction the pandemic is taking in their district municipalities, and the country as a whole. She also said that, where applicable, teaching and learning may be conducted outside the classroom. 

Meanwhile, the Northern Cape department of education said it has witnessed a sharp increase in infections at schools over the past three weeks.  

The department said that, since 1 May, 79 schools have been closed in the province because of infections. Sixty-one schools have since reopened and 18 remain closed. 

In a statement on Sunday, spokesperson for the department, Geoffrey van der Merwe, said over the past week, 264 positive cases had been recorded at schools. 

“It is worth noting that this total represents 180 learners, 62 educators and 22 support staff at schools. All districts are affected in this regard, and this has a negative impact on learning and teaching,” van der Merwe said.

Last week, Free State education MEC Tate Makgoe said a school in Welkom had been closed and would reopen on Monday after eight learners had tested positive for Covid-19 and one learner died from Covid-19-related complications. 

On Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would revert to lockdown level two, as the country experiences a high rise in Covid-19 infections. He said that over the past week there was an average of 3 745 daily new infections. 

Ramaphosa said the Northern Cape and Free State were among the four provinces that are experiencing their third waves. 

The president also said that camps and sporting activities at schools had contributed to the increase in numbers. However, two weeks ago, the department of basic education suspended contact sports in schools. The department said that sports activity-related Covid-19 outbreaks had been reported in Gauteng during the last week of the first term, and that similar outbreaks had been gradually increasing in the second term, which led to the decision. Gauteng and North West are both experiencing their third waves of the pandemic.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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