Schools ready, except for masks

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By JULIAN JACOBS
No personal protective equipment (cloth masks) for learners were available at four schools in Makhanda on Monday when a delegation led by Makana Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa visited them.

As part of a national assessment on the readiness of schools to receive learners back to classrooms, as well as check their preparation to curtail the spread of the coronavirus at these schools, several schools were identified to check their readiness. The schools visited were Samuel Ntlebi Primary School, Khutliso Daniels Secondary School, and Mary Waters Secondary School. A small delegation (without the mayor) visited George Dickerson Primary.

Before the delegation was allowed to enter the schools, they had their temperatures checked and were obliged to use hand sanitisers. This was a common scene at all four schools.

At Samuel Ntlebi Primary, the principal briefed the delegation on the school’s readiness and how they’d had to orientate staff about the procedures for this period.

In addition to preparing Covid-19 protocols, the school had also been given a set of recommended changes from the Fire Department that they had to sort out before learners returned to school. The school was busy with renovations and among the Fire Department’s directives was that they had to get the contractors to remove all the rubble from the site.

At Khutliso Daniels, the delegation went on a walkabout to check how their Grade 12 learners would be accommodated. During the inspection the principal showed several classrooms to the group, as well as the newly installed water tanks, and safety measures around the school. Again, the Fire Department issued recommendations for minor issues to be addressed before learners returned. “What we saw was the classrooms looked clean and smelled good,” said a member of the delegation.

At Mary Waters, Principal Faith Coetzee and Department of Education area manager, Sizwe Betela, spoke about the new changes facing them as a high school. As part of the Covid-19 regulations set out for schools, Mary Waters ensured that staff would get the orientation by sitting in their classrooms and listening via a newly installed telecom system. This is because the teacher’s lounge is too small to accommodate all 33 staff members. Out of the 33, only 30 were present. The other three were experiencing health problems and had been advised to remain at home.

Coetzee said they had about 70 grade 12 learners and that the group had to be split so there would be 16 learners in a classroom.

“All learners have to sit at a desk with their name attached to it and they cannot move desks,” Coetzee said. This was to ensure safety for the other learners.

“They will be told not to share any pencils, pens, and other school related utensils,” she said.

The delegation observed different levels of readiness at the four schools, but overall, were satisfied with those schools visited. At the time of visiting the schools no personal protective equipment for learners was on hand as yet.

“We know it is on its way, as it has been delivered in Port Elizabeth and East London,” said Betela.

“The three schools l visited have been cleaned or are in the process of being cleaned,” said the Mayor. “PPE has been delivered for the educators. No PPE for support staff and learners has been delivered.

“Unless the outstanding PPE is delivered this week, l don’t  see how the schools can open.”

Schools across South Africa will reopen on Monday, 8 June 2020 for grades seven and 12, pending their readiness.

ARE WE READY FOR THIS?
In this week’s bumper edition of Grocott’s Direct – the electronic version of Grocott’s Mail – we look at how educational institutions across the city have prepared, and we share advice from a school psychologist about how parents and learners can manage this new transition.

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