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Mangaung schools might remain shut when others reopen in June

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Schools in Mangaung and other COVID-19 hot spots might remain shut when the rest of the schools around South Africa begin reopening on June 1.

This is reportedly part of the proposal tabled by the Department of Basic Education, according to the latest edition of the Sunday Times.

If approved by the cabinet, more than 5 000 schools, including 929 private ones, in Mangaung, Buffalo City, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini and Nelson Mandela Bay will remain closed as they will be regarded as being on lockdown Level 5.

Keeping these schools shut would affect 3.7-million pupils and 134 779 teachers.

The proposal – discussed on Wednesday with the National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (NAISA), which represents nine private schools associations – is expected to be unveiled when Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga briefs the media this Monday about how ready the provinces are to reopen schools.

The Sunday Times says it has seen circulars showing that in some provinces schools have been instructed to buy personal protection equipment with funds originally meant for learning materials, while parents have been roped in to help with cleaning.

The document outlining the department’s proposals, the publication claims, suggests that all 157 123 matric pupils in hot-spot areas “be accommodated in Grade 12 special camps”.

Schools in areas where COVID-19 infections are lower will reportedly be listed under lockdown Level 3, and Grades 7 and 12 will resume on June 1, with Grades R to 7 and Grade 11 expected to return on a staggered basis.

Pupils in the remaining grades will return once lockdown Level 2 begins.

The proposal, according to the Sunday Times, says that under Level 3, the school timetable could be rearranged to “accommodate different grades attending school on alternate days as well as platooning/shift arrangements to comply with social distancing”.

Unions representing teachers, including the South African Democratic Teachers Union, do not want their members to return to work unless schools are disinfected and teachers are provided with soap, sanitisers and masks.

They also want social distancing to be observed.

The unions will meet Motshekga on Monday for a progress report on the readiness of the provinces.

NAISA chair Mandla Mthembu confirmed that the alliance met on Wednesday with education director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, but expressed surprise that the department’s proposal had been leaked.

Mthembu said when NAISA’s nine member organisations met on Friday, concern was expressed about the 929 schools that may not reopen on June 1.

“Our concern is that there’s a blanket approach to say all schools in those municipalities must not open. If schools are located in the red zone but in wards that may be viewed as Level 4 or Level 3, they should be allowed to open,” he was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times.

He reportedly said that during the meeting with Mweli, they were told no private school should open before June 1.

The department’s proposal must be approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council before going to the cabinet for final approval.

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, said the leaked document was being used for “discussion purposes”.

“I know for a fact [it] has since been overtaken by events,” he told the Sunday Times.

Basil Manuel, the executive director of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa, was quoted by the paper as saying: “We accept that this may be a reality that more than 5 000 schools may remain closed because opening them would simply just not make sense. However, I would seriously caution against holding matric camps. Where would you put the children?” – Sunday Times/Staff Reporter

 

 

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Masks no longer mandatory when outdoors

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Staff Reporter

South Africans will no longer be required to wear masks while outdoors, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night when he gave an update on national efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wearing of masks indoors however remains mandatory.

“As before, it is mandatory to wear a cloth mask or similar covering over the nose and mouth when in public indoor spaces,” said Ramaphosa in a televised address.

“However, a mask is not required when outdoors,” he added.

“This means that we still need to wear masks when in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxes, buses, trains or any other indoor public space.

“But we do not need to wear masks when walking on the street or in an open space, when exercising outdoors or when attending an outdoor gathering.”

The president said after four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation.

He said there are far fewer deaths than before.

“Our scientists tell us that this is mainly because some 60 to 80 percent of the population has some form of immunity to the virus, either from previous infection or vaccination . . . we are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.

About 48 percent of all adults are believed to have received at least one vaccine dose.

Further to that, both indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50 percent of their capacity provided that the criteria for entrance are proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours.

“But where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a COVID test, then the current upper limit will remain – of 1 000 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors,” he explained.

This change to the restrictions on gatherings, according the president, will be of great benefit to the sporting, cultural, entertainment and events industries, among others.

The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral will increase from 100 to 200.

However, night vigils as well as after-funeral and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are still not allowed.

The regulations on social distancing are also being changed, requiring that a space of one metre is maintained between persons in all settings except schools.

There are also changes to the regulations on international travel.

Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.

All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.

All measures are taking effect from this Wednesday.

Ramaphosa said in deciding which restrictions to ease and which to keep in place, they  also looked to the experiences of other countries, including those where the complete lifting of restrictions has been followed by a surge in infections and deaths.

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Man gets six life terms for raping own daughter

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A 36-year-old man from Clocolan has been sentenced to six life terms by the Free State High Court after he was found guilty of raping his 14-year-old daughter.

In a statement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said Judge Pina Mathebula sentenced the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his daughter, for raping her six times between May and July 2021.

“The victim was staying with the accused, his wife, who is her stepmother, and two other siblings,” read part of the statement issued by NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping on Thursday.

“In May 2021, the accused told his wife that his late brother told him in a dream ‘to get rid of a tokoloshe that was inside the victim’. The very same night of the alleged dream, the accused raped the victim. The last rape incident took place on 25 July 2021,” added the statement.

The court, sitting in Ladybrand, heard that the wife tried to reprimand him but he assaulted her.

As if not enough, he overpowered and raped the victim, despite her cries and his wife’s reprimands.

He threatened to kill both of them if they were to tell anyone of what he did.

A day later, the accused’s sister visited the family and the wife told her what the husband had done to the child.

The sister reported his brother to the police and he was arrested.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Advocate Moipone Moroka submitted a victim impact report facilitated by Bulelani Mothabeng in which the victim said that she thanks her aunt for coming to her rescue because if it was not for her, she would still be her father’s sex slave.

Moroka further argued that the scourge of violence against women and children has reached an alarming proportion and can be described as a pandemic.

“What aggravates the matter is that the father raped his own daughter multiple times over a period of three months and this means he had ample opportunity to reflect on his actions, but he continued betraying the trust his daughter had in him,” said Moroka.

The father was sentenced to six life sentences for rape and two years for assault and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

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Premier mourns journalist

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Premier Sisi Ntombela has described the late SABC journalist Thabo Katsande as a disciplined, dedicated and hardworking man.

She said this in her special tribute to Katsande, who was based in Bloemfontein, during a memorial service held at the Rose Hall at the Mangaung Metropolitan offices on Thursday.

The journalist passed away at a Pretoria hospital last Saturday following a short illness.

“The Thabo I knew was focused on his work,” said an emotional Ntombela.

“The Thabo I knew was passionate about his trade and wanted to see journalism, particularly in the Free State, grow in leaps and bounds,” she added.

The premier took the opportunity to urge people to value their work and strive to improve their communities as the province is faced with a high unemployment rate.

“We live in an era where some people do not value their jobs . . . and a sense of entitlement has consumed them. Thabo’s work ethic was admirable,” she pointed out.

Ntombela described Katsande as a fearless and fair journalist who showed both the good and the bad through his work.

“Through his work, Thabo helped us to tell . . . the Free State story,” she said.

“He captured the minds of the people with the way he told our stories, the good and the bad.

“The beautiful and the not so beautiful – Thabo told it all, without fear or favour.

“The media fraternity has lost a giant and . . . it will be poorer without him.

“No longer shall we see that charismatic man running around with a camera looking for that perfect shot.”

Katsande will be laid to rest in Bluemgumbosch, eastern Free State, this Saturday.

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