Schools gear up for reopening

Kronendal Primary School principal, Nathan Levendal, moments after being vaccinated.
Teachers line up outside a vaccination site in Pinelands.
Kronendal Primary School teachers, Kate Rogers and Veronica Tabata wait for their number to be called.

It’s back to school next week and Hout Bay schools already have one eye locked on the challenges posed by the extension of Level 4.

As the country consistently recorded an average of nearly 20 000 daily new cases during the “third wave”, the country was moved to adjusted alert level 4 for 14 days, which President Cyril Ramaphosa later extended for another 4 days – until Sunday July 25.

Public schools had been scheduled to return on Monday July 19, but this was postponed to Monday July 26, the original scheduled return date in the 2021 school calendar.

The seven-day extension prompted school’s to think outside the classroom in order to keep up with the curriculum.

At Kronendal Primary School, they set out a range of study options for the extra week of closure, ranging from work packs, research projects and set reading.

“We have kept it simple and focused mainly on literacy activities. We are mindful that our children and staff also need some ’down time’,” said Kerry McCraw, Head of Department at Kronendal Primary School.

“We used our communication channels with parents to discuss the details. The goal is to keep our learners on their work track and to encourage a study routine while at home.”

She added that many of their staff were vaccinated during their last week at home.

“In a situation like this, it is normal to feel sad, worried, confused, scared or angry. We feel it is an important time for both staff and children to stay home with their families and caregivers, to stay in their ‘bubble’ and remain safe and socially distant,” Ms McCraw said.

However, Kronendal’s plans are in place for “every eventuality”, Ms McCraw said, determined by government’s decision in line with infection rates.

“The role for us all right now is to prevent further spread and support each other through communication, support and above all, kindness,” she said.

At Hout Bay Primary School, circumstances are different as pupils struggle to keep up with the curriculum and principal Nobuntu Mayekiso fears the extension could pile on the pressure.

“The learners are lacking in what is supposed to be covered in the curriculum. Some parents are assisting their learners at home but most of our parents are at work,” she explained.

Another struggle the school is faced with is when pupils and staff return to school having lost a loved-one.

“When pupils return, some would even be affected by the loss of their loved ones due to this virus and so are the staff members. Educators will struggle with finishing off last term’s admin work. It’s really a challenge. We will have to start with recovery plans,” Ms Mayekiso said.

But, Hout Bay Primary School have plans in place that could hopefully help them overcome the challenges.

“We are lucky as a school to have NPOs like Numbersense that help us with mathematics and ABC for Life which helps with language – English. We will also engage the SGB. Other grades already started with afternoon and support classes,” she said.

“The recovery will not be over a year. It will gradually take time.“

For Imizamo Yethu mother of three, Lerato Tafuma, the extension has caused some problems inside her home.

Ms Tafuma is a house-keeper who was forced to pick up any work available after losing her set job in Camps Bay due to Covid last year.

“I was without work for nearly 6 months, living off food parcels and handouts. We even stayed in the dark for weeks, but there was nothing I could do. My boys had to work through all of that. I had no money for tutors, not even lights for them to study or work,” she explained.

She is unable to attend to homework or any kind of school work, saying she has become reliant on the schools and the NPOs to ensure that her boys’ work is attended to.

“If I stay at home and focus on their school work, I won’t have money to keep a roof over our head or food in our mouths. People can say that I did it for 7 months, but nobody will mention that I did not enjoy one minute of it,” she said.

“I am really grateful for everybody trying to help. We are faced with some really bad times. I want for my children what every parents wants, which is only everything that is good for your children,” Ms Tafuma said.