Independent schools to remain open, but remotely.

Independent schools will not be delaying or closing schools as recommended by the Department of Basic Education, says Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa executive director, Lebogang Montjane.

Montjane said just as they did last years, independent schools would be able to effectively manage the virus, with its stringent preventative measures in place. He said the association would recommend its members lean on hybrid teaching and learning, like it did last year during the first wave, with private schools remaining open, but remotely.

He explained that remote learning will require learners to attend class but on a rotational basis, like last year, which will mean that learners attend class five times in a two-week period.

“Our schools were meant to open on January 13 but we recommended our members move their opening day to January 18. However, our boarding schools, and we have several full boarding schools where there are no day students, are opened,” he said.

The National Alliance of Independent Schools Association (Naisa) said it was not opposed to the department’s decision to delay the reopening of schools, but had other things to consider, such as saving teachers’ jobs.

Naisa’s Mandla Mthembu said that last year, many schools lost revenue due to non-payment of fees and many teachers were retrenched. Mthembu said that while online education was an option, it was not as effective as a traditional lesson in class.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has called on the department to show leadership regarding the independent schools that have opened by closing them down if they were not embarking on remote learning.

“The department cannot afford to ’persuade’ these schools to close but should lay down the law. All schools operate in the same environment that is experiencing the unprecedented spread of the second wave of Covid-19 infections. Therefore, the decision to delay the opening of schools should apply to every school – whether public or not,” said Sadtu media officer, Nomusa Cembi.

Cembi said that allowing the schools to open further perpetuated the gap between public and independent schools.

The KZN National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) says independent schools should not be exempt from the decision to delay the reopening.

“The department has indicated that they will attempt to convince independent schools to close and reopen at a later stage. Independent schools are not immune to the virus and the safety of learners and teachers should not be compromised during the height of the pandemic. One can always catch up with the curriculum but one cannot replace lives,” said Naptosa’s Thirona Moodley.

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