Covid-19: Primary school kids are starting to return full-time – here is govt’s plan to keep them safe
- Primary schools are slowly returning to full capacity learning and the department of Basic Education has made some provisions to ensure the safety of learners.
- Intervention measures include the provision of Covid-19 essentials, adequate supply of water for regular handwashing, and monitoring of strict mask wearing.
- Mobile classrooms will be provided to combat overcrowding, while transport hygiene rules for commuting learners have also been tabled.
- Just under 50,000 screeners have been employed across provinces to carry out effective and efficient screening in schools.
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The Department of Basic Education has announced various intervention measure to ensure that all primary schools and special schools are safe as schools slowly gear towards receiving all pupils daily.
Rules tabled in the Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on Tuesday include the adequate supply of water by various provinces to schools for regular hand washing, monitoring of strict mask wearing, and the provision of Covid-19 essentials such as masks, face shields, hand sanitisers and soaps, among others.
Primary schools across South Africa will have Covid-19 essentials when they reopen during the third term, according to the department of basic education.
These include masks for learners, teachers and non-educators, face shields, hand sanitisers, detergents and soap, disposable gloves, and heavy-duty gloves for cleaners.
There are various ways for schools to obtain these essentials, and these include central procurement and distribution to schools, particularly in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northern Cape, and North West.
Funds can also be transferred to schools to procure their own Covid-19 essentials. This applies to the Eastern Cape, Free Sate, Mpumalanga, and the Western Cape.
Cloth masks have a lifespan of six months, according to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition. All provinces have, therefore, made funds available to obtain new masks.
Not wearing a mask properly or at all is considered a serious misconduct, and all schools will be monitored to ensure strict compliance.
According to the department, monitoring compliance is done at the following levels:
- Principals, other School Management Team members and teachers doing daily monitoring
- Circuit managers and district officials doing spot checks
- Provincial head offices doing regular monitoring on a sample basis, spot checking, employing monitors
Schools across provinces need to address overcrowding in classrooms to ensure necessary social distancing. Where means are available, provinces have provided schools with mobile classrooms.
Those that do not have the means, on the other hand, are said to consider using community facilities such as churches to ease overcrowding, and are assessing associated implications.
Pupils who use transport to commute to school will need to be monitored by scholar transport monitors for compliance with Covid-19 regulations. Monitors will ensure that pupils always wear masks and sanitise their hands when boarding and disembarking from school transport.
Monitors will also need to ensure that transports are sanitised before and after use.
Pupils, staff members, and visitors will not be allowed to enter a school premises if they show symptoms of Covid-19.
Funds have been made available to provinces to employ about 49,741 screeners to carry out screening.
To further protect pupils and staff members:
- All schools have already been provided with adequate thermometers according to the size of pupil enrolment
- Infrared thermometers are checked regularly to ensure that they are not faulty and giving false readings
- Dysfunctional or damaged thermometers are returned to the suppliers or are replaced
- All provinces have measures to ensure that infrared thermometers are sufficient and that they are functional at all times
The department has looked into various ways to ensure that all schools have an adequate supply of water. Those that have limited water supply will be provided with water tanks and water to fill them.
According to the department, some provinces have provided schools with water tanks and have put in place various systems to ensure that tanks are filled regularly.
They will also need to make use of existing boreholes and install new boreholes.
- Five provinces have put measures in place to service the existing boreholes: 185 boreholes are being serviced; 85 boreholes have already been serviced; and 43 boreholes were to be installed by 26 July 2021
- Seven provinces have on-site storage facilities for schools which experience water challenges and to address intermittent water supply
Reservoir tanks have been designed to store water for at least 48 hours, particularly for areas experiencing unreliable supply of water.
Pupils in special schools
Various measure to maintain health protocols for pupils who use assistive devices in special schools have been tabled. They include the limited sharing of assistive equipment where possible and:
- Guidelines were issued to all special schools where Standard Operating Procedures were contextualised
- A protocol and training programme on cleaning of wheelchairs and assistive devices was provided to special schools for pupils with physical disability
- In schools for the blind, there is regular sanitising of frequently touched surfaces due to use of trailing mobility techniques
- Schools are encouraged to help pupils with washing of hands regularly with soap and water before and after using the assistive devices
- The devices are sanitised before and after use by pupils.
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