The Western Cape Education Department said the decision by the national government to maintain a July 2021 regulation requiring schools to observe a one-metre social distancing rule is severely affecting learners since 88 percent of primary schools have had to resort to rotational attendance of classes.
Only 12 percent of primary schools have adequate infrastructure to accommodate their student populations while adhering to this regulation, the department said.
It called on the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) and other government departments to reconsider their COVID-19 regulations, arguing that “it is clear that the risks to the future of our youth are far greater than the risks posed by COVID-19.”
“Depriving our children of the opportunity to attend school full-time in the current circumstances is no longer justified, and in order to avoid a generational catastrophe, we call on the DBE and Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to make the necessary changes to the regulations and directions to ensure that we can start to make up the devastating losses that have already been incurred, and which will take years to remedy,” it said in a statement.
The call followed a statement by Basic Education Minister on Tuesday in which he revealed that there are no plans to change the current directions issued by his ministry in terms of the Disaster Management Regulations.
The provincial government, however, said there was “strong and mounting evidence to suggest that the learning losses our young people are suffering are devastating and will have long term negative consequences.”
It cited findings of the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey published in May 2021, which stated that South African primary school children in no-fee schools had in 2020 learnt 50-75 percent less than what they would normally learn.
In 2021, there continued to be significant teaching time losses, as a result of rotational timetables, it warned.