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Johannesburg – Teachers’ unions are protesting against the Ministry of Basic Education’s plan to reduce social distancing from one meter to half a meter in schools.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced this week that the department intends to contact Cabinet regarding the possible reduction of social distancing in primary schools from one meter to half a meter. The new development comes after the publication of the new Covid-19 departmental directions on July 31, which determine social distancing at 1m.
In a joint statement by the National Professional Teachers’ Organization of SA (Naptosa), the National Teachers’ Union (Natu), the Professional Educators Union (Peu), the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the South African Teachers’ Union ( SAOU), the unions said they rejected the new developments.
“Despite warnings from teachers’ unions that a social distancing of one meter is not possible when all elementary school students return to school, it is clear after two days of school that respecting the distancing social distance of 1m is practically impossible when the traditional timetable is followed. ”said the teachers’ unions.
They added that teachers’ unions had not been consulted on the new proposal for social distancing reduced by half a meter in primary schools.
“We argue that this issue should be the subject of meaningful consultation with the organized teaching profession and that it should be supported by scientific evidence that the planned reduction will not lead to new infections among learners, educators and members. of the community at large.
“So far, no scientific evidence has been provided to unions regarding the acceptability of such a reduction,” they said.
Teacher unions added that they were in favor of a return to normalcy to ensure that traditional timetables in schools can be reintroduced, but not at the expense of adhering to required health and safety protocols.
“Our advice to schools in the meantime is that when the 1m cannot be met, schools should follow the deviation provisions in The Gazette and continue with the rotation schedule. This is done in the best interests of the child, the educators and the community and to ensure that schools do not become super-presenters… ”the unions said.
They said they have officially requested an urgent meeting with the ministry to discuss the matter.
Motshekga was monitoring teaching and learning at primary schools in the Free State on Thursday, where she said the department was considering measures to have as many learners as possible in schools.
She had heard that the unions feared they had not been consulted, but added that the ministry still had to engage with the Ministry of Health and the National Coronavirus Command Council.
“We will be looking at different measures, whether we use school halls or platoon systems or outdoor locations,” the minister said.
She said the ministry had agreed to meet with the unions and provide them with a report. Before the ministry submitted the proposal to Cabinet, it needed the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee and would refer the matter to the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure.