Public Service Commission (PSC) Commissioner Michael Seloane says during the Commissions service delivery inspections conducted in June at selected schools, they found that information about COVID-19 was well disseminated at school level and there was a high level of awareness about the pandemic.
COVID-19 and its manifestation has created uncertainty, especially for families with school-going children, who also live with vulnerable persons, Seloane said.
Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria virtually, Seloane said they found a few instances where learners were not wearing masks, but the schools were able to provide for them.
However, the PSC noted with serious concern that generally, the supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs) was not sufficient, which required urgent attention. Equally, some of the equipment, such as thermometers, were dysfunctional, as they provided inaccurate readings, Seloane said.
Seloane said to observe social distancing, the Department of Basic Education ensured that an average of 20 learners were accommodated per class.
This is indicative of the historical infrastructure challenge. Provision for isolation rooms was also not made in the majority of schools.
Seloane said the Commission observed with great concern the use of pit-latrines in some schools, which is a grave health and safety risk that requires urgent attention.
COVID-19 has created an environment where government has to work together. In this instance, the Department of Basic Education is reliant on the local municipalities, as well as the National Departments of Water and Sanitation and Public Works and Infrastructure to provide a conducive environment for learning, in line with general health standards and COVID-19 requirements, Seloane said.
In the contemporary context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commissioner said the partial transition to home and online learning has exposed the depth of the digital divide in the education system.
It has had social and pedagogical implications, while raising important political debates about governments response.
It has also thrown into stark [view] the pervasive inequalities in South Africas education system, and the differentiation of public and private schools, Seloane said.
The Commission has provided feedback to the Department of Basic Education on the improvement of conditions, in anticipation of the other grades returning to school as the COVID-19 regulations are eased.