A plan to reopen schools in May: report

A new document proposes that matrics and students in grade 7 and 12 resume classes as early as May 6.

The document, seen by TimesLIVE, is based on the premise that president Cyril Ramaphosa lifts the extended lockdown at the end of the month, and was written up by a committee comprising the heads of the provincial education departments.

The proposals are contained in the department of basic education’s ”draft post Covid-19 lockdown recovery plan” which was discussed with teacher unions and governing body associations earlier this week, the paper said.

The document reportedly states that the remaining grades would be phased in, to try and salvage the academic year.

Tentative dates contained in the document include:

  • May 6 – Grades 12 and 7;
  • May 20 – Grades 11 and 6;
  • June 3 – Grades 10 and 5;
  • June 17 – Grades 9 and 4;
  • July 1 – Grades 8 and 3;
  • July 8 – Grades 2 and 1;
  • Grade R – July 15;

”Given the high risk associated with large gatherings, the DBE is considering a phased-in approach. The most critical grades will be brought in first to start the primary and secondary schools, while the remaining learners are retained at home, and they are brought in on an incremental basis,” the document stated.

Social distancing risk

Chris Klopper, the chief executive of the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), told City Press said that maintaining social distancing among pupils will be a challenge.

He said it was possible to save the year for Grade 12s as only 24 schooling days have been lost so far.

“If you cancel the June-July exams you win three weeks and it’s possible to win another week somewhere else. So, we don’t foresee a big problem with the Grade 12s. What is also important is that we’ve heard people that say scrap the year. We don’t agree with that.”

Change is coming

The Sunday Times recently reported that the Department of Basic Education is considering a number of options to help salvage South Africa’s school year.

Some of the possibilities being considered include:

  • Earlier starts to the school day;
  • Evening and weekend classes;
  • Scrapping “nonessential” parts of the curriculum in certain subjects;
  • Scrapping the June and September school holidays.

Education minister Angie Motshekga was due to make the final proposals to a special cabinet meeting scheduled for this week.

A committee is also looking at whether the writing of the June exams by pupils in grades 1-12 should go ahead or be postponed, said departmental spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga.

“The entire school calendar has now shifted, so anything is possible,”  he said.

“The breaks could be shortened. Teachers could teach until the afternoon and maybe learners could go home and come back and lessons could go on into the evening.”

School calendar

With South Africa’s lockdown now extended until the end of April, government and has had to look at other options to save the school year.

One of these measures is the broadcasting of school lessons on the SABC. Programmes started on Thursday (9 April) and are broadcast across three SABC TV channels and 13 radio stations, with online support.

“The series will provide curriculum support lessons to learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12 and Early Childhood Development (ECD),” the Department of Basic Education said.

“Some of the subjects covered include Maths, Physical Sciences, English First Additional Language, Life Sciences and Accounting. A variety of African languages are also covered under the early childhood development basket,” it said.

Higher Education plan

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education meanwhile, will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday (21 April) to assess the impact of the lockdown on the higher education sector.

As part of the briefing, minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande will present plans from the department, universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to rescue the 2020 academic year.

Issues which are expected to be covered in the Higher Education plan include:

  • Plans to rescue the academic year for both universities & TVET colleges;
  • Online learning and teaching, what is to be done with mid-term examinations;
  • The impact of the lockdown on National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) qualifying students;
  • The accommodation of students at university residences.

Read: No hot food may be sold during lockdown – and government isn’t budging on the alcohol ban either

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A plan to reopen schools in May: report