The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has sent a document to South African schools outlining the standard operating procedure for schools during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The document, which was seen by MyBroadband, follows a press briefing by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on 19 May confirming that schools would reopen for Grade 7 and Grade 12 students on 1 June 2020.
The standard operating procedure document explains how a number of important issues must be handled.
In the document, the government provides an example screening questionnaire from the Department of Health which shows the type of questions that may be asked of learners.
These include the following:
- Do you have a high temperature?
- Do you have a cough?
- Do you have a sore throat?
- Do you have difficulty breathing?
- Do you feel weak and tired today?
- Can you taste food and drinks normally?
- Can you smell normally?
If the learner or employee answers all of the questions in a way which indicates a lack of COVID-19 symptoms, they will be allowed to enter the school for a temperature check.
If the subject answers any of the questions in a way that could mean they have COVID-19, or has a temperature higher than 38 degrees Celcius, they will become a “person under investigation” and will be isolated and referred for testing.
Schools must also identify a room which can be used to isolate suspected cases and people under investigation by local health authorities.
The document states that extra precautions must be taken with learners and staff who have pre-existing conditions and staff who are over the age of 60 with one or more chronic illness.
“It is advisable that such learners and staff should be allowed to work from home, where possible,” states the document.
Rules for learners and teachers
The document also contains rules for all learners, educators, support staff, officials, parents and communities.
- Avoid gatherings.
- Maintain a social distance of at least 1.5-2 metres to others, where possible.
- Every learner, staff member and visitor must wear a cloth mask at all times.
- Avoid direct contact with others e.g. shaking hands or hugging.
- Frequently wash hands with water and soap.
- Avoid touching the face (i.e. eyes, nose, mouth) with unwashed hands.
- Eradicate all forms of stigma and discrimination as a result of COVID-19.
The document further requires schools to encourage learners to:
- Wash their hands frequently, always with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Keep their nails and teeth clean.
- Refrain from touching their eyes, mouth and face.
- Not share cups, eating utensils, food or drinks with others.
- Sneeze or cough into a bent elbow or tissue, and to discard the tissue safely in a bin with a lid, then wash their hands immediately.
- Refrain from teasing anyone about being sick.
- Share what they learn about preventing disease with their family, friends, and siblings.
- Tell their teacher or parents, if they feel sick, and to stay at home.
All visitors, parents, and vendors are not allowed to enter school premises unless the nature of their visit is essential.
In such a scenario, they will need to sign a register, wear a face mask, and sanitise their hands.
They must report to reception and, with the exception of government officials, must make an appointment and state the nature of their business.
Schools must regularly communicate with parents via newsletters, phone calls, SMSs, emails, and other similar methods so that the need to physically meet with parents is minimised.
If such a physical meeting is necessary, meetings must be limited to a single parent per learner, and social distancing protocols must be adhered to.
What to do if a COVID-19 case is confirmed
If a learner or staff member is confirmed to have COVID-19, the school will be contacted by public health officials to identify those with whom the infected person has been in contact.
Public health officials, with the assistance of the appropriate staff, will conduct a risk assessment and will provide recommendations on how the situation should be managed.
In case a school is not contacted by public health officials, they have been provided with the appropriate provincial official to contact and can alternatively use the NICD toll-free emergency hotline to be referred to the correct person.
“In most cases, closure of the school will not be necessary,” states the document.
“The decision to close will be school- and context-specific.”
School administrators will not need to make these decisions, the document states – this will be the job of departmental officials.
“Large event cancellations or school dismissals may be recommended for 14 days, or possibly longer, if advised by local health officials, the Provincial Head of Department, and the DBE,” the document states.
In the case of staff being confirmed to have COVID-19, they must be granted sick leave, and if they have used up their sick leave, they must be granted incapacity leave and ill-health retirement processes.
If an employee is exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, they must be quarantined for 14 days as per regulations and can be requested to work remotely.
All rules and regulations applicable to schools will also apply to hostels.
However, the document states that extra caution should be taken at hostels – in particular with regards to social distancing and hygiene practices – due to the “intimate” nature of these institutions.
All hostel staff must be trained in COVID-19 prevention, and all support staff will need to wear personal protective equipment when on duty.
Sanitisers or soap must be available at all entrances, exits, dining halls, and study rooms, and learners must wash daily with warm water and soap.
Visits to other boarders’ rooms are prohibited, and everyone in the hostel will be obliged to wear a mask.
Should any learner, teacher, or staff member not feel well, they must immediately be isolated and health services must be informed.
The document states that the Department of Transport is responsible for all legislation, regulations, licencing, and enforcement when it comes to the transportation of learners to and from school.
All of these vehicles will need to abide by the regulations already present for public transport, including:
- All vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected before and after the transportation of learners.
- This includes door and window handles, armrests, and handrails.
- All drivers and passengers must wear a mask.
- Hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content must be available in the vehicle.
- Those coordinating this transport must ensure that all learners sanitise their hands before getting into the vehicle.