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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Media Statement: Rotational Learning in Primary Schools must be terminated

Attention: Editors and Reporters

8 November 2021

Notwithstanding the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (MAC), the South African Human Rights Commission has information that large numbers of primary schools around the country are continuing on rotational timetables and applied to rotate in 2022 as well. The reason for the rotation is a directive of the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) providing that social distancing measures in primary schools should be maintained at one meter. Further, the Commission has also been made aware that the vast majority of schools in the Western Cape (86%) have applied for rotational timetables for the 2022 academic year. The Commission holds that rotational learning has a long-lasting negative impact on learning outcomes for children and, as the MAC’s advice states, that ‘the harms of learners attending school on a rotational basis - specifically the severe cognitive, nutritional, and psychosocial costs - exceed the benefits of reduced COVID-19 infections from smaller class sizes’.

The COGTA directive compromises the ability of primary schools (where the very foundation of learning takes place) to return to normal teaching and learning, notwithstanding reduced transmission and virus acquisition rates among teachers and learners in these schools as the majority of educators have been vaccinated and due to the low acquisition risk profile of primary school learners. The Commission agrees with the MAC that ‘all primary schools should open at full capacity.’

The Commission has therefore written to the Minister of Basic Education, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to call for an urgent meeting to discuss the termination of rotation in primary schools. This would essentially mean that the COGTA Minister needs to amend her directive by deleting the 1-meter social distancing requirement in respect of primary schools. We will also discuss the return to normal schools for high schools, in view of the fact that the Department of Health has commenced with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for 12-year-olds.

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Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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