The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has taken an about turn on its decision for schools across the country to commence with contact sports.
On Wednesday, the DBE announced that all contact sports at schools across the country are cancelled with immediate effect.
“The Council of Education Ministers has taken a decision to suspend all contact sports in schools with immediate effect,” said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
Mhlanga said the cancellation of contact sports comes after provinces such as Gauteng, North West and the Free State saw a rise in Covid-19 cases among learners.
“It is evident that despite following the protocols as guided by the directions on extramural activities and standard operating procedure on the prevention, containment and management of Covid-19 in schools, contact sports events still contribute to the spread of Covid-19,” said Mhlanga.
Earlier this month, after learners returned to school for the second term, the DBE announced that following talks with stakeholders, an agreement was reached for contact sports to resume.
At the time, DBE Minister Angie Motshekga said non-contact sport training in schools can continue provided that all social distancing, hygiene and safety measures are observed and that there is no physical contact between participants during training.
Motshekga said: “In 2021, after the reopening of schools and consultations with education stakeholders, the DBE gazetted directions allowing non-contact sport, sport-related activities and school-based art and cultural activities to resume without spectators, subject to adherence of safety measure.
Adding that the gazette included directions on school sports and extra mural activities, non-contact sport, sport-related activities and school-based art and cultural activities to resume subject to health and safety protocols.
As a result of these school sports activities, related Covid-19 outbreaks in Gauteng, Free State and the North West saw a rise of cases in communities across the country.
Motshekga said the Outbreak Response Team told the council that the risk was high when engaged in close-contact sports, especially with people who do not live together.
Following this, DBE this week scheduled two meetings to discuss the impact of allowing contact sport activities to continue at schools.
The National Professional Teachers’ Organization of South Africa’s Basil Manuel said this decision is both positive and negative.
“There are provinces that are experiencing an increase in infections, I think with those schools in mind, the decision taken makes sense, but I don’t think the decision should have been one-sided,” said Manuel.
Manuel said there are provinces that haven’t had a single outbreak, where infection rates are very low.
“Yes, we want to protect, but we need to remember that sports have its own purposes, which is for the children to release all this testosterone,” said Manuel.
“I understand the decision made by the DBE, but I do believe there could have been better ways to deal with this,” said Manuel.
Mhlanga said the department will continue to monitor the situation at schools and until it indicates otherwise, there will be no contact sports until further notice.