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South Africa: Education And Training Minister Receives ‘Blasts’ From Teachers Union

Amid concern over the increase of COVID-19 cases, a leading teachers union has requested the Education and Training Minister, Ntlhoi Motsamai, to make known a comprehensive plan for the reopening of schools next month, and as well make known how the government intends to protect teachers and learners from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The union’s demand follows Ms. Motsamai’s announcement last week that secondary schools had been given the green light to start accepting applications for 2021 Grade 8 (Form A) learners.

The minister said there will be phased reopening of schools with primary schools the first to open on 4 January 2021.

Secondary schools will only open in March next year to allow Form C and Form E learners to write their 2020 final examinations which could not be written this year due to disruptions to the school calendar caused by the nationwide lockdown aimed at fighting Covid-19.

The examinations ought to have been written from October to early December 2020 but they were postponed to next year after learners lost three months of learning time. Learners sitting for their final examinations were allowed to go back to school earlier this month.

Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) secretary general, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said despite announcing changes to the school calendar for the coming year, Ms Motsamai still failed to provide adequate information regarding how the government planned to ensure a smooth teaching and learning programme.

Mr Ntsibolane said among other things, Ms Motsamai failed to explain how Grade 8 learners will be accommodated in secondary schools when the 2020 academic year had been extended to March 2021.

Mr Ntsibolane said the minister also ought to have outlined measures the government will put in place to fight Covid-19 given that some schools have already recorded infections since opening earlier this month.

Twenty-six learners at St James High School in Mokhotlong recently tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Ntsibolane said the least the minister could have done was to explain how the government intended to ensure there were no infections in schools in the 2021 academic year.

“The minister’ statement lacks crucial information such as how the government plan to accommodate the 2021 Grade 8 learners in the mist of the extended 2020 academic year,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

“Primary schools are opening on 4 January and there is no plan in place to ensure the safety of learners and the teachers from Covid-19. The minister’s statement has caused great confusion and I have been getting calls from principals seeking clarity,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

In her statement last Thursday, Ms Motsamai said all public and government funded secondary schools were bound by the Education Act of 2010 to accept Grade 8 applications for the 2021 academic year. She then implored them to do as such.

“All government-funded schools are bound by the Education Act of 2010 to abide by the guidelines for the learners’ intake. Application forms will be ready for collection from district education offices on 5 January 2021,” Ms Motsamai said.

A ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the minister’s statement was meant to counter rumours that 2020 Grade 7 learners will not proceed to Grade 8 next year but would be forced to repeat because of the disruptions caused by Covid-19 which forced schools to close in March 2021.

The officer said a more comprehensive plan for the 2021 schools’ calendar will be published next week.

Written by PH

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