South Africa

CORONAVIRUS

It’s back to school for some – and a whole new way of doing things

Grade 12 pupils at the Oakdale Secondary School are seen in class, putting masks on after spending over two and a half months at home. The reopening of schools was met with mixed emotions from learners, educators and parents. (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

It was an emotional start to the day at the opening of two schools in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg, with students embarking on their first day of school after being at home for over two months.

Parents stood outside the fence at the Odin Park Primary School watching as their children went through the administration process after having their temperatures taken and recorded. Some seemed visibly nervous while others were snapping away with their cellphones.

Pupils had their hands sanitised and temperatures taken before being allowed access to the school. Once on the property, they filled out a form recording their personal details as well as their temperature. This is the new normal. They then made their way to the classrooms they’ve been allocated.

Grade 12 learners are seen in class at the Oakdale Secondary School after spending over two and a half months at home. The reopening of schools was met with mixed emotions from learners, educators and parents. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

From Monday, schools across the country reopened for Grades 7 and 12 learners – the first cohort to return.

“It’s mixed emotions as I send my child back to school. She has been at home for two and a half months now, studying on her own. She is excited because it is her future. She is a young adult so I can’t decide for her what she can and can’t do,” said Almitra Kirkwood as she watched her Grade 12 daughter enter Oakdale Secondary School.

“I trust that everything will be fine and I have faith that the school has put all safety measures into place, but it’s basically a fifty-fifty thing. That’s how I feel,” said Kirkwood. “I am at ease that she is at school. It’s not just about how I feel. I have to see it her way also. She wants to finish school.” She was, however, disappointed that the school never invited parents to have a look at the safety measures that are in place at the school.

An Odin Park Primary School learners stand in line practising physical distancing before submitting personal records for the resumption of school, after spending over two and a half months at home.  (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

Learners at Oakdale Secondary followed the same procedures that were in place at Odin Park Primary, except here, children were given masks before making their way to their classrooms.

The temperature of a Grade 12 pupil is taken on arrival at the Oakdale Secondary School.. (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

“We are doing everything in our power to keep our learners safe. We have marked the areas outside the school gate with lines to ensure social distancing is adhered to,” said Oakdale’s principal, Marcus Heradien.

An educator addresses Grade 12 pupils at the Oakdale Secondary School. (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

“The desks in the classes have been arranged in a way where social distancing is also adhered to. Desks are marked with tape to allow one learner to a double desk. 

“To minimise movement, educators will move from class to class during the change of periods, and not the learners. Classrooms have been provided with disinfectants and sanitisers,” Heradien said. 

A Grade 12 pupil at the Oakdale Secondary School sanitises her hands before commencing school. (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

“With the help of the school’s governing body, we will sanitise classrooms twice a day – during break time and after school. We have a feeding scheme here at the school and, as an added precaution, learners should bring their own lunch boxes and spoons.”

An Odin Park Primary School learners stand in line practising physical distancing. (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

Heradien emphasised the need for parents to educate their children on measures necessary to curtail the spread of Covid-19. “It starts at home. As much as we have our measures in place, parents need to educate their kids on the importance of physical distancing. They need to practise it at home, or else it will make it difficult for educators.”

An Odin Park Primary School learner gets her temperature taken before attending class. (Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

With the first day being reserved for orientation, some pupils stood basking in the winter sun, catching up with their friends. In class, they were given words of encouragement and motivation from teachers.

A coronavirus-awareness illustration hangs on a wall at the Oakdale Secondary School. Photo: Daily Maverick/ Shiraaz Mohamed)

Grade 12 student Fortunate Ndlovu, who wants to pursue a career in teaching, said: “I feel like the virus is delaying our future. I am very happy that I am coming back to school and I am ready, as long as they keep the school clean, sanitise it and give us masks all the time. 

“There is some good that came out of being at home during this time. Prior to that, I had no idea of what I wanted to do after school. Sitting at home gave me a chance to ponder my future.” DM

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