Nerves and joy as educares reopen

Sophia Warmback from Sunny Side Montessori in Claremont doing schoolwork wearing a mask.

Lady Buxton Pre-school in Claremont has reopened, along with thousands of other early childhood development centres, following a court ruling.

The North Gauteng High Court ruled on Monday July 6 that all non-government ECDs could reopen immediately.

Lady Buxton teacher Marcelle Kouter Robertson said she felt nervous being back at work but the children seemed unfazed.

“The children were happy to be back, they wanted to greet their friends with a hug, though we had to ensure that they do not make contact with each other and are sitting at a distance.”

Teacher Maybre Stevens said the Grade Rs were adapting to hand sanitising and physical distancing, but it was harder for the younger children.

“Teachers must be vigilant at all times to see that children aren’t getting close to each other.”

The pre-school’s director, Sedick Dawood, said he was grateful ECDs could provide some semblance of a routine for the children.

The staff and children, along with visitors to the pre-school, are all screened for Covid-19 symptoms, and mats have been marked showing the children where they can sit to safely keep their distance from each other.

The school has provided masks and face shields to all the children and staff. There are also foot-activated sanitisers at the school’s entrance and exit as well as at classroom doors.

Principal Caitlin Munnik, from Sunny Side Montessori Pre-primary School in Claremont, said she was relieved the school had reopened after being closed for so long.

“The preschool age group works far better with hands-on experiences compared to the online learning approach,” she said.

During lockdown, the school had offered pre-recorded virtual classes and tasks and had offered advice to families and made weekly activity packs for parents to work through with their children, she said.

The teachers were happy to be back together again and the children were happy to see their friends.

Director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development, Professor Eric Atmore, welcomed the court’s ruling on the reopening of ECDs.

“Vulnerable children can now get the early education and stimulation that they require, and they can get a nutritious meal each day and be safe at the ECD centres,” he said.

Professor Atmore said many parents had returned to work under level 3 lockdown but had found it hard to do so when child-care facilities were closed.

Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez echoed his sentiments.

“With the country moving to alert level 3, many parents have had to return to work, with no alternative care options for their young children. It has placed many children at risk and the livelihoods of ECD workers were at stake,” she said.

Ms Fernandez urged all reopening ECDs to abide by Covid-19 protocols and guidelines.

These can be found at the provincial government’s website, www.westerncape.gov.za, and include extensive safety training for staff, daily screening and hand washing on arrival for both staff and children, staggered arrival times per age group, and age-appropriate education of children about Covid-19.

ECD operators should prioritise the health and safety of the children in their care, she said.