With the confirmation of the first patient to have contacted the coronavirus in South Africa, many parents, teachers, and learners are concerned about the impact the virus could have on teaching and learning.  The question is, “Will our schools have the capacity to continue to provide educational services from an online platform should the virus spread and schools are forced to close down?” Should this be necessary, under-resourced school communities will suffer whereas privileged school communities will no doubt make suitable contingency plans using an established technology platform.

The reality is uncertain, particularly for underserved communities.

What's more, schools and parents must weigh any potential benefits, or downfalls of closures of schools with a slew of other factors. Factors such as whether parents will be able to take time off work, whether children who depend on school meals will have adequate food at home, and exactly how long learning facilities should be closed, should our government not be able to provide online learning.

Amongst other concerns are: What steps the government is taking to educate and protect learners from the Covid-19 virus? How will teachers be able to identify the difference between a common cold and the Covid-19? How and where will we find facilities to quarantine identified persons?

We are fortunate that the incidence of COVID-19 infections in South Africa so far is limited. This affords an opportunity to support schools to increase their state of readiness as they engage tasks that may include to:

  • extend awareness among learners and parents of how COVID-19  is transmitted
  • inform learners and parents on how to protect themselves and their families
  • ensure sound clear communication to limit myths, fake news and rumours
  • engage custodial staff in developing a sanitation plan for key points in the school (e.g.  bathrooms, work surfaces)
  • maintain learner participation and cooperation in washing hands with soap/sanitiser and water
  • follow trusted news sources on the latest COVID-19 updates
  • support  teachers in  providing calm and correct advice or instructions to learners
  • capacitate designated teachers in taking care of and isolating students with fever and or respiratory symptoms until fetched from school
  • obtain authorised information on procedures, lines of communication and accountability for decision making on school closure.

At our core, NASCEE and its members commit themselves to the values and principles underlying the basic human right to lifelong education and health and safety measures follow closely. NASCEE will continue to monitor and expand this narrative as more information is revealed. NASCEE members remain fully committed to ensuring that the interests and safety of our children remain at the center of all decision-making.

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