President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation on Thursday night, when he is expected to make an announcement on whether schools will be closed as Covid-19 infections surge.

Ramaphosa’s address comes after a number of meetings with the cabinet and the national coronavirus command council.

There has been speculation that schools will be closed for another two weeks.

Teachers, parents and pupils have been in limbo over whether schools will stay open because as the government discussed the way forward, unions proposed that schools be closed amid the surge of the virus.

The trade-off between keeping schools open to salvage the academic year versus closing them as coronavirus infections rise daily, has been extensively considered in the past months. Schools were closed for more than two months after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown in March.

They were, however, opened for matriculants and grade 7s on June 8, while more grades returned to physically attend school on July 6.

Last week, five recognised teachers’ unions — the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa), the SA Teachers Union (SAOU), the National Teachers Union (Natu) and the Professional Educators Union (PEU) — met Motshekga and said the reported cases and closures of schools were causing anxiety and affecting teaching and learning.

They said that pupils testing positive for the coronavirus affected the attendance of both pupils and teachers because the schools were either closed or forced to remain open, with a consequent increase in transmissions.

The unions submitted that schools be closed with immediate effect to allow the peak of the pandemic and winter to pass. This time would be used to attend to outstanding issues such as the provision of water, building toilets and additional classes.

They proposed that schools be reopened at the end of August, subject to a review of the development of the epidemic.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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