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Scrapping the year may be only way back to safe teaching
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Scrapping the year may be only way back to safe teaching 

The biggest concern for both educators and pupils (and their families) is that the very nature of classroom teaching goes against the principles of social distancing.

Speculation has been swirling about possible reasons behind the last-minute cancellation of a briefing by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga about plans to resume teaching as lockdown restrictions are eased. It is possible that Motshekga (and the government) had a change of heart about the resumption of school activity after a number of teachers’ and students’ organisations expressed grave reservations about going back to class. The biggest concern for both educators and pupils (and their families) is that the very nature of classroom teaching goes against the principles of social distancing – the foundation of the campaign to “flatten the…

Speculation has been swirling about possible reasons behind the last-minute cancellation of a briefing by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga about plans to resume teaching as lockdown restrictions are eased.

It is possible that Motshekga (and the government) had a change of heart about the resumption of school activity after a number of teachers’ and students’ organisations expressed grave reservations about going back to class.

The biggest concern for both educators and pupils (and their families) is that the very nature of classroom teaching goes against the principles of social distancing – the foundation of the campaign to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections. Even in well-resourced government and private schools, there are still too many in the average class to maintain the safe distance of at least 1.5m between individuals.

Although the Covid-19 infection tends to have little impact in the age groups of school-going children and teenagers, there are many teachers in this country who are in high-risk categories. If those educators end up in hospital, or have to be quarantined at home after transmission via a pupil or fellow staff member, the whole object of returning to teach will have been defeated.

On the other hand, schools have already been closed since 18 March. Although many schools have tried to pick up the pieces of their shattered teaching year through the use of distance education – via internet links – this has only emphasised the gap between rich and poor schools, with pupils in the latter unable to afford even basic data to access teachers and teaching material.

Various suggestions have been put forward, including a phased return to school for various grades. But perhaps parents should prepare for the eventuality that this entire year may have to be scrapped and catch up will have to take place next year.

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