South Africa: As Schools Prepare for Full Return in July, Safety Is Paramount, but New Teaching Approaches Also Critical


One of the greatest mistakes made in 2020 was focusing only on matriculants and neglecting the lower grades. Matric focuses on content that an 18-year-old child can master with little support. In contrast, the child in the foundation phase needs supervision and guidance.

The announcement that all primary school learners will return to school on 28 July 2021 has been widely welcomed -- also by teachers' unions. Schools will follow a "risk-adjusted differentiated strategy" according to which each school's approach will be adapted to its specific circumstances. That schools must supply reasons if they cannot comply with this guideline is a step in the right direction. This will prevent exploitation of the system by some.

With such an important decision, two basic aspects must be taken into account. First: is it safe? South Africa is experiencing a sharp increase in Covid-19 infections. Recently, 52 teachers and 11 learners in the Western Cape tested positive for the virus. This again raises questions regarding the safety of teachers and learners. Most experts agree, however, that the virus risk is greater outside the school than inside. Hopefully, the adapted Level 2 regulations will help to decrease the third wave when learners return.


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