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Covid-19 information "well circulated" in schools says commissioner

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Public Service Commission (PSC) Commissioner, Michael Seloane, says that during the Commission’s service delivery inspections done at selected schools in June, they found that information about Covid-19 was well circulated among students which results in a high level of awareness about the pandemic.

“Covid-19 and its manifestation have created uncertainty, especially for families with school-going children, who also live with vulnerable persons,” Seloane said.

During a virtual media briefing in Pretoria, Seloane said that there were a few instances where learners did not wear masks, but the schools were able to provide masks for them.

“However, the PSC noted with serious concern that generally, the supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs) was not sufficient, which required urgent attention. Equally, some of the equipment, such as thermometers, were dysfunctional, as they provided inaccurate readings,” Seloane said.

The Commissioner added that in order to practise social distancing, the Department of Basic Education arranged that only 20 learners were accommodated per classroom.

“This is indicative of the historical infrastructure challenge. Provision for isolation rooms was also not made in the majority of schools.”

Seloane added that the use of pit-latrines in some schools is a grave health and safety risk that requires urgent attention.

“Covid-19 has created an environment where the government has to work together. In this instance, the Department of Basic Education is reliant on the local municipalities, as well as the National Departments of Water and Sanitation and Public Works and Infrastructure to provide a conducive environment for learning, in line with general health standards and Covid-19 requirements,” Seloane said.

In the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Commissioner said the temporary shift from classrooms to home and online learning has brought to light the depth of the digital gap in SA’s education system.

“It has had social and pedagogical implications while raising important political debates about government’s response.

“It has also thrown into stark [view] the pervasive inequalities in South Africa’s education system, and the differentiation of public and private schools,” Seloane said.

Feedback on the improvement of the conditions in schools was forwarded to the Department of Basic Education as the Covid-19 regulations are eased – just in time for the other grades to return to class.

 

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