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Perivale pupils attend assembly on the first day of school. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER
Perivale pupils attend assembly on the first day of school. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER

Following the basic education department’s recommendation to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) that social distancing requirements in classrooms be reduced, the DA has approached the court to declare rotational learning unconstitutional.

Rotational learning, where learners in public schools attend classes on alternate days or weeks, was implemented two years ago as part of the department’s requirements for one-metre social distancing within schools during the Covid pandemic.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Wednesday said the sector had lost at least 50% of the curriculum because of rotational learning due to the intermittent closure of schools over the past two years. Motshekga was speaking at the department’s lekgotla, which discussed the effects of the pandemic.

Rotational learning overwhelmingly disadvantages pupils in no-fee paying schools as they have lost more than half of their normal school days since the start of the pandemic, says DA leader John Steenhuisen.

The implementation of rotational learning in public schools is continuing despite the increase in vaccinations and the decrease in Covid-19 infections, says Steenhuisen in papers filed at the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

“The result is that children of rich parents are getting full basic education while children of poor parents get half an education. Poor learners are also less likely to ameliorate the loss of physical schooling,” Steenhuisen says.

The DA’s application is twofold:  it wants the court to grant an interim order that would compel all schools to do away with rotational learning and it wants the court to declare rotational learning unconstitutional.

To strengthen its argument, it relies on various expert opinions that show the negative effects rotational learning has had on the sector. They include the recommendation of the ministerial advisory committee to the NCCC last week saying schools should ensure social distancing without compromising on contact learning. Steenhuisen says the government has chosen to ignore the recommendation.

“There is no evidence to suggest primary school learners attending schools increase the risk of transmission. On the contrary, children are unlikely to spread Covid-19. Schools are not superspreaders,” Steenhuisen says.

Citing the ministerial advisory committee report to the NCCC, Steenhuisen says most teachers in public schools have been vaccinated, which reduces the risk of transmission.

“The social distancing rule is ineffective because it is not practically possible to keep schoolchildren more than a metre apart all the time. They will inevitably come into close contact with each other and teachers, which defeats the purpose of the rule,” he says.

maekot@businesslive.co.za

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