Although schools seem to be prepared to control the transmission of the coronavirus compared to when the virus first hit the country, the recent survey indicates there are still areas of concerns.
Titled “National School Readiness Survey 5”, the study sampled just under 8 000 schools across the nine provinces early this month. The survey was conducted by all the four major recognised unions in the education sector. It was preceded by a ‘Principals’ Baseline Survey’ in early May and the subsequent ‘Monitoring Progress’ surveys from the end of May until the end of June this year.
The main objective of the fifth survey was to assess the overall schools’ readiness as teachers prepare to welcome the remaining grades on August 24, 2020. It looked at key areas ranging from, among others, compliance to standard operating procedures (SOP), readiness of teachers, challenges related to the national school nutrition programme (NSNP) and the engagement between the school governing bodies, community and parents.
In terms of screening learners and the teaching staff, most schools across the nine provinces have indicated their readiness and capacity to screen and test learners as they gradually return to school.
Access to water also seems to have improved markedly, with over 80% schools in seven provinces indicating they have access to water. The less than 30% of schools that indicated they needed water tanks in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Western Cape have received them.
While all the provinces indicated that they received sufficient quantities of masks so that each learner and teacher can have at least two, four provinces: KwaZulu-Natal (12%), Mpumalanga (39%), Limpopo (40%) and North West (48) have recorded below the 50% readiness threshold.
According to the survey, most schools said they have sufficient cleaning equipment such as water and soap or detergent or sanitizer to clean all surfaces in all classrooms. However, their responses vary when it comes to how many times a day they can do this. For instance, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Free State and Gauteng recorded below 50% mark readiness to clean the classroom twice a day using a disinfectant when the next grades return on 24th August.
Most provinces also indicated they have “constructed a timetable for when the next grades return that allows for a 1.5m distance between learners in classrooms. But six provinces, excluding Gauteng and the Western Cape, showed they are ill-prepared when it comes to “planning for work that learners will need to do at home when not in school for the returning grades”.
The surveys also showed that majority of schools are in favour of daily and weekly rotation with 11% of schools nationally, saying they are “struggling to construct a timetable because of constraints of space and teacher availability”. As far as Grade 12 readiness is concerned, 62% of schools said they are confident they have covered enough content for their learners to sit for their examinations.
On the issue of school fees, almost 80% of schools that depend on school fees to operate, according to the survey, have not received payment. This, the survey said, impacts on their ability to carry out maintenance, pay for rates, water and lights, print learning material and other related necessities including paying staff.
The survey also indicated that only 23% of schools are confident that they can provide meals to eligible learners when they return on 24th August. This is worrying because school nutrition has been highlighted as a mainstay for most learners who come from impoverished households. Several research studies carried out in the past by the department of education have indicated that provision of meals contributes to high learner performance and also improves school attendance.