A round table discussion on school infrastructure is under way between national and provincial education officials. The Department of Basic Education and officials from the provincial education departments are delivering presentations to the portfolio committee on Basic Education. The infrastructure reports were based on the state of schools, including structure, water and sanitation and electricity.
Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga addressed officials before the presentations started. She said that infrastructure remained one of the department’s biggest issues. She said this reflects negatively the work of the department and its image and financially, it is one of the biggest challenges the department faces. Motshekga also highlighted the issue of schools operating at 100% capacity post-COVID-19 lockdown.
“Now we wish to take all primary school learners back to school. It’s not workable to have this shift thing. It’s very depressing and it’s not working. Parents are expected to go to work, so you’re expecting a mother and a father with a nine-year-old or an 11-year old to be left alone. It’s just completely untenable,” she said.
With COVID-19 protocols still in place, lessons continue to be split over the five-day school week to ensure for adequate social distancing.
The Department of Basic Education is currently investigating the possibility of returning all learners at primary school level due to the learning losses suffered as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, but no decision has yet been made.
Motshekga said that this was affecting the curriculum poorly.
“In terms of our estimation, especially for the other grades, we will have tossed 30% of the curriculum. We are going to term one with this shift story and we can’t even say that we’ve got half of the curriculum. That I know they’ve not been able to cope with,” Motshekga added.
The minister also said that getting teachers and learners to go back to schools with poor infrastructure while having to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols was a risk.
“I have infrastructure, even to get teachers to go there in these very unsafe environments, we have to convince them about the safety. We still have schools with overcrowding, how do I tell them go? There are schools that don’t have staff rooms, how do I tell them to take kids back?” she said.