Joint Media Statement by five Teacher Unions, I.E. NAPTOSA, NATU, PEU, SADTU AND SAOU

4 August 2021

Social Distancing In Primary Schools: Plans To Reduce From 1m to 0,5m

Emanating from a meeting by and between the five teacher unions on Wednesday, 4 August 2021, it was confirmed that all unions have been approached by the media to comment on the intention of the DBE to approach Cabinet in regard to the possible reduction of social distancing in primary schools from 1m to 0,5m. This new development takes place after the publication of the new DBE Covid Directions on Saturday, 31 July 2021 that determine social distance as 1m. But, despite warnings from the teacher unions that 1m social distancing is not possible when all primary school learners return to school, it is clear after two school days that compliance with the 1m social distancing is virtually impossible when the traditional time table is followed.

The teacher unions wish to record that they were not consulted in regard to the new proposed reduced social distance of 0,5m in primary schools. It is our contention that this matter must be the subject of genuine consultations with the organised teaching profession and that it must be supported by scientific evidence that the planned reduction will not lead to further infections among learners, educators and members of the broader community. No scientific evidence thus far has been provided to the unions in connection with the acceptability of such a reduction.

The teacher unions further wish to record that we are in favour of a return to normality to ensure that the traditional time tables in schools may be reintroduced, but it cannot be at the expense of compliance with the required health and safety protocols that the Department of Health has insisted on since 26 March 2020. Our advice to schools in the interim is that where the 1m cannot be complied with, the schools should follow the deviation provisions as contained in the Gazette and to continue with rotational timetabling. This is done in the best interest of the child, educators and the community and to ensure that schools do not become super-spreaders but rather the barriers against the transmission.

The teacher unions have formally requested an urgent meeting with the Department of Basic Education to discuss the matter.


• NAPTOSA: Basil Manuel (079 508 6228)
• NATU: Cynthia Barnes (072 851 1311)
• PEU: Ben Machipi (079 515 1165)
• SADTU: Mugwena Maluleke (082 783 2968)
• SAOU: Chris Klopper (083 708 7733)