south african schools return june
File photo. Pupils of Phehellang Secondary School in Tamahole, Parys. (Photo: GCIS)

Some parents in South Africa may heave a sigh of relief as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday that SA schools will reopen on 1 June 2020, with Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners returning to the classroom.

“Independent and public ordinary schools will open, even in the metropolitan areas,” the Minister said.

Every school needs to obviously adhere to health and safety protocols that will be put in place, with the “premium being on saving lives”.

Schools will open in South Africa in staggered approach

The Minister said the reopening of schools will follow a staggered approach. “We will start with grades 7 and 12 and small schools. The other grades will follow in due course,” said the Minister. No date has yet been announced for the other grades.

The announcements follows the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet’s approval of the Basic Education Department’s (DBE) staggered approach plan.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga south africa schools
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says all schools must adhere to, and observe health and safety protocols that will be put in place. Photo:

The opening of schools is part of the government’s easing of lockdown which was imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Following the backing of Cabinet, the Minister announced that a revised school calendar will be gazetted soon.

The pending calendar will indicate the opening and closing dates of schools and the breaks in between.

In preparation for the reopening of schools, delivery of COVID-19 essentials such as sanitisers, masks, water and sanitation is currently underway in schools across the country.

“The reports we got are showing that preparations have been taking place and good progress has been made. All indications are that the pre-conditions for the reopening of schools will be met obviously with the premium being on saving lives,” said the Minister in the virtual briefing.

Meanwhile, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has entered into an Implementation Protocol agreement with the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and Rand Water to ensure the delivery of water to schools.

Addressing co-morbidities

Motshekga said teachers and staff who have co-morbidities and are vulnerable to COVID-19, are being profiled, so as to determine a guide on how to manage them.

Motshekga called on parents to work closely with schools to ensure that learners with pre-existing illnesses are also assisted.

“Schools will work with parents to obtain the information which once again needs to be treated with the utmost care. This matter is of paramount importance and we appeal for cooperation in this regard,” she said.

Special schools

Mindful of the needs of learners with disabilities, the DBE is working with provinces to ensure that special schools are adequately provided for in all the plans put together.

During consultation with social partners, Motshekga said it became clear that a different approach was needed when it comes to special schools.

“We are working with organisations who are advising us on the best way forward regarding the phased-approach of the special schools. Our planning and procurement has considered the needs of learners with disabilities and those in special schools. Provinces have put in place plans that will ensure that no child is compromised,” said the Minister.

Early Childhood Development Centres

With the further easing of lockdown restrictions, several people in addition to those providing essential services returned to work opening a gap for the childcare of these workers.

Bearing this in mind, Motshekga said the department will maintain a delicate balance between allowing Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDCs) to operate, alongside the safety and health of the children and their caregivers.

“The regulations for Level 3 are being finalised and we believe there will be a solution to this matter very soon.

“We are working together with the Department of Social Development on this matter as it straddles both departments at the moment,” she said.

To monitor implementation on the delivery of essentials and adherence to guidelines, the department has appointed a consortium of independent monitors. –