Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education, declared earlier this year that schools would continue to operate on a rotating system in order to comply with the government's 1-metre distance requirement for students.
"This policy is unreasonable, unjustified, unfair, and downright terrible," said Steenhuisen. "It is a policy that has no justification."
"There is no basis for continuing with rotational schooling," says the author. The current South African environment, he argues, renders this program completely ineffective in terms of infection reduction.
Motshekga defended her stance by stating that she was following a recommendation from the Ministerial Advisory Committee that was effective July 2021.
Steenhuisen explained that the policy's goal was to enable 1 million students to engage in social distancing in classrooms, so relieving burden on the health-care system by reducing the spread of the virus. Currently, the virus is not exerting any burden on the health-care system, even during the fourth wave of infection.
"In contrast to many other countries, the South African population possesses a very high level of natural immunity, which is attributed to a high proportion of past infection." Scientists currently estimate that 70-90 percent of the South African population has developed immunity to the virus. As a result, hospitalizations due to Covid have been significantly lower than in earlier waves," he explained.
He went on to say that depriving pupils of their fundamental right to an education without providing a rational justification was a grave miscarriage of justice.
"As a result, the Democratic Alliance has filed an application with the High Court to compel schools to open completely and quickly," he stated.
Approximately 1.1 million learners started school today in the Western Cape, with 105 000 students starting in grade 1 and 97 000 students starting in grade 8.
Earlier this week, Education Minister Debbie Shafer advocated for the abolition of the rotating system in the education sector.
She reiterated the statement today when visiting Perivale Primary School to welcome students back to the first day of school for the new school year.
The majority of students will continue to attend school on a rotational basis, depriving our students of even more valuable instructional time in the process, despite expert advice that schools revert to full attendance. In the meanwhile, I will continue to communicate with the national government in order to ensure that all students return to daily attendance as soon as feasible," she stated.
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