Director-general for Basic Education, Hubert Mathanzima Mweli says that schools could open as early as 4 May for teachers, before learners return on Monday, 6 May under a phased approach, beginning with grades 7-12.
Mweli stressed that these dates are tentative and are subject to change as part of a draft amended school calendar. He was speaking as part of a Department of Basic Education update on the status of schooling during the Covid-19 Lockdown.
The director-general listed a number of non-negotiable pre-conditions for the reopening of schools.
The list included water and sanitation, Covid-19 essentials, cleaners, screeners, additional teaching posts to avoid overcrowding, the provision of mobile classrooms, and the introduction of “incubation camps” for “progressed and weaker (Grade 12) learners”.
Additional pre-conditions for resuming learning activity includes safe transport for learners and employers; screening of learners and employees on entering institutions; prevention of viral spread; cleaning of surfaces and shared equipment; and good ventilation.
Learners will be required to wear face masks, along with all staff. Each learner will be supplied with three face masks.
Proposed return dates for learners are as follows:
- Grade 7 and Grade 12 – 06 May
- Grade 6 and Grade 11 – 20 May
- Grade 5 and Grade 10 – 03 June
- Grade 4 and Grade 9 – 17 June
- Grade 3 and Grade 8 – 01 July
- Grade 1 and Grade 2 – 08 July
- Grade R – 15 July
The new school calendar for learners is proposed as follows:
- Term 2 – 6 May to 26 July
- Term 3 – 3 August to 23 September
- Term 4 – 28 September to 9 December
The DG sated that June exams will be cancelled with the school year likely to end later – moving from 4 December to 9 December. Teachers will be on leave from 11 December.
The May/June exams for the National Senior Certificate (grade 12) will be combined with the October/November exams and rescheduled for November/December.
Parents and teachers have raised concerns about the health aspects of sending their children to school, most notably relating to social distancing. Many parents have said that they are prepared to forfeit the school year, rather than to risk the health of their child.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) has stressed a safety-first approach.
“The first priority is the safety of all our learning institutions because we cannot afford to lose lives. Corpses can neither be taught nor teach.
“SADTU is concerned about the safety of teachers, lecturers, education support personnel and learners and students. Above all, we are concerned about the readiness of the provincial departments with regard to the availability of health and safety essentials that have to be put in place in the learning institutions at least two weeks before any activity can take place,” it said.
The union said that it expects a number of safety measures to be put in place once teachers and students return to school.
Among other measures, it wants the government to put the following in place:
- Provide temperature scanners for the daily screening of students and teachers;
- Ensure that learning institutions have enough soap, disinfectants and sanitisers and that hygiene is part of the curriculum where it should be the first thing to be practised before any daily learning activity can take place;
- Hire more staff to clean and sanitise the classrooms and workshops and offices as frequently as possible;
- Provide desk screens to avoid learners touching each other or the desks or chairs;
- Provide masks and make them mandatory;
- Prohibit the sharing of textbooks.