Plans to gradually reopen the entire training and education sector in South Africa were announced last week by the Department of Higher Education and today by the Department of Basic Education. The FF Plus is committed to ensuring that formal education is resumed as soon as is medically plausible.
With regard to the tertiary education sector, the Department of Higher Education recommends that universities must start with online teaching on the 4th of May. It was also recommended that students who need to have access to workshops and laboratories to continue with their training, must be the first to return to campuses.
For schools, the recommendation is that teachers must commence with work on the 4th of May and that the various grades must be phased in, two more grades every two weeks. All these proposals also clearly stipulate requirements for social distancing, regular sanitising and quarantine for individuals who have tested positive.
From the submissions made to the Higher Education Committee and the responses during both Committee meetings, it seems that there is a very low level of confidence that these measures will be adhered to throughout the educational system. Thus, certain groups hold the view that all levels of education must only reopen once all institutions are ready and prepared for it. The FF Plus rejects this approach.
While it is absolutely imperative to create opportunities for students and learners who have fallen behind to catch up again, the rate of progress cannot be determined by the institutions or persons who are the least prepared. It is reminiscent of yet another inheritance from the ANC's struggle to gain power when "Pass One, Pass All" was a popular struggle slogan.
In the aftermath of this pandemic, the entire world is going to require the best expertise on the highest possible level in order to recover. Thus, the studies of those who are in the process of equipping themselves cannot be delayed for the sake of outdated socialist ideologies.
The FF Plus is striving to bring about a dispensation where decision making is devolved to the lowest possible level. After all, it is irrational to bring the economy to a standstill in places where there are no cases of the coronavirus just because the infection rate is serious somewhere else; or that certain schools, universities and colleges have to remain closed because others are not able to handle the crisis.
Therefore, the FF Plus supports the gradual reopening of educational institutions and maintains that in certain cases, the process should even be sped up.