South Africa: No Pulse, No Heartbeat - Why Bringing More Grades Back to School Just Won't Work


Far from being banal bureaucratic documents, timetables are the heartbeat of a school. Without them, nothing works. Trying to manage timetables when Covid-19 demands physical distancing, and with teachers booked off sick, is a nightmare.

As the Covid-19 pandemic accelerates, the messiness of allowing more students back, while adhering to physical distancing measures, has become more apparent. Teachers, parents, SGBs and principals are increasingly sounding the alarm that doing so safely - especially in schools with no additional staff (about 80% of schools) - is not feasible.

This realisation was the conclusion I came to a month ago when I did an analysis for the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) on the Department of Basic Education's timetabling guidelines for student readmission. My concluding comment in that email exchange, on 21 May 2020, read as follows:

"Schools can probably open to readmit one grade cohort of students and adhere to physical distancing guidelines and protect their vulnerable staff... But as soon as this goes up to two grade cohorts (Grade 11s and/or Grade 6s), no doing. You'll need to have more groups (of students) than you have teachers, including principal, and everyone will be teaching every lesson every day, which doesn't...

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