By JULIAN JACOBS
The Makana Joint Operating Centre’s communication team spoke to the Education Department in Makhanda about the readiness of schools to receive learners back to classrooms for 2021 during lockdown level 3 in a Covid-19 hotspot municipal district
For all parents, and for parents who are sending their little ones to school for the first time, this is indeed a very emotional period as the long-awaited return for all learners to schools are almost over. The opening day for all public schools across South Africa is scheduled for Monday, 15 February 2021. Private and Independent schools are earmarked to open the first week of February 2021.
Mandisi Matyolo, the Acting Circuit Management Centre Head of the Department of Education based in Makhanda, said he was happy to announce that all schools in the Makana Local Municipality will be ready on opening day. “We are on daily communications with all school principals in our area and we are confident that schools are ready and compliant to all Covid-19 protocols,” Mr Matyolo said.
When asked if there were adequate supplies of Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) for learners and educators, he indicated that the Department of Basic Education decided that this year all schools will have to use funding they receive to procure PPEs, hand sanitisers and cleaning materials themselves.
“By the end of this week, all monies will be paid into school’s account to be used to pay for their own PPEs. We are empowering schools to place their own orders and to use their budgets for this purpose. Schools have experience in procuring goods on their own, like the National School Nutrition Programme where schools procure food for learners from the money they receive from the Department,” he said.
“We are closely monitoring this situation and have provided advice and support to schools in this regard. We are not responsible for providing PPEs to school like we did last year. This year all schools must supply their staff and learners themselves by using the funding they receive from the Department,” Matyolo said.
He also emphasised that the water and sanitation difficulties at various schools last year had been resolved. Matyolo said all schools have water tanks connected to the water supply systems, and all ablution facilities have been repaired or will be repaired by the time schools reopen on 15 February 2021.
Matyolo also reported that there had been no incidents of vandalism at schools over the festive period and that school management teams are currently at schools assessing and putting plans into motion to open schools. He indicated that by next week educators will begin to go back to school to assist in preparing classes.
He also advised parents to let the principals and the superintendent general of schools know, like last year, if their children have any co-morbidities in this time of Covid-19. “It is important that we limit exposure of these children and as a Department we are committed to offering all learners the best education we can provide. Parents will be assisted in this regard and will be able to work with their schools in making sure their children get the necessary school work and assessment,” he said.
He is also aware that a lot of school have staff shortages and have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We symphatise with schools who have lost educators and learners over the last few months because of Covid-19,” Matyolo said. He also indicated that he is aware certain schools do not have cleaning staff and as a Department they have been in liaison with the Extended Public Works Programme to make unemployed youth available to assist in the cleaning of schools.
Makana Executive Mayor Mzukisi Mphalwa was happy with the report on the preparations of schools and wished all learners and educators well for the coming academic year. “I have full faith in all schools to ensure that all learners and educators will have PPEs this coming year and that all Covid-19 protocols will be strictly enforced,” Mpahlwa said.