South Africa: Teachers voice concern as schools reopen

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JOHANNESBURG

Teachers unions in South Africa expressed concern Monday as millions of students returned to school after a precautionary break in July due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.    

Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organization of South Africa (NAPTOSA), said they were concerned whether the government has addressed cases of overcrowded schools and water supply shortages.  

“We want schools to reopen. We want our kids back at school. Our teachers are ready, but of course, not at all costs. The schools don’t want to be the next place where the next wave of the virus starts,” Manuel told local broadcaster eNCA.  

He said schools need to ensure safety. 

“The biggest outstanding issue is still the social-physiological support for both teachers and learners,” he said, adding that not all learners are resilient because some live in communities where people are dying or family members have been infected and need support just like teachers.  

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the largest union in the country, said many schools in the country were underprepared to deal with the influx of students.  

Schools first started to reopen in the country on June 8, with Grade 7 and Grade 12 students returning to classrooms as the government started gradually easing one of the world’s most strict lockdown.  

A month later, South Africa ordered the closure of schools again due to a surge in coronavirus cases.  

Elijah Mhlanga, the spokesman for the Department of Education, said schools are ready to deal with the influx of learners with safety measures in place to combat spread of COVID-19.  

South Africa, the world’s fifth worst-hit country from the coronavirus, has registered a total of 609,773 coronavirus cases, the highest on the continent.  

The death toll in the country has reached 13,059 deaths.

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