South Africa expected to delay reopening of schools: report

 ·31 May 2020

Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga is set to delay the reopening of South African schools on 1 June following strong opposition from teacher unions and school governing bodies, the Sunday Times reports.

The paper reported that Motshekga acknowledged to the five unions and three major governing body associations that met with her that “the system is not completely ready”.

There are also concerns that some provinces are much better equipped for a return to school than others.

Teachers and governing bodies are expected to use the postponement to prepare, and buy time to deliver water to schools without running water, where tanks had not been delivered.

Motshekga is expected to make an announcement later on Sunday about the delay.

New school calendar

Last week the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) wrote a letter to Motshekga recommending that she reconsider the return of students to schools from 1 June.

The SAHRC said it has performed independent monitoring of schools for readiness in all nine provinces and has held consultations with various stakeholders, including teachers’ unions and school governing bodies.

The Commission said it supports the opening of schools as soon as possible in order to give effect to the rights of learners to education. However, it said that this should be done in tandem with reasonable and adequate measures and efforts to safeguard the right to health of learners and educators.

“The various teachers’ unions have urged us that the conditions necessary for the proposed opening of schools for grade 7 and 12 learners, announced by yourselves, have not yet been met,” it said.

“They said that they based this conclusion upon their own observations on the ground. The schools governing bodies informed the Commission this afternoon that, as of today, (28 May 2020) about 3,500 schools still have no adequate water.”

“All these reports give the Commission concerns whether, and considering that only three days remain before the date of opening as well as the amount of work that appears still remaining to be done, the schools will be ready to receive learners with the expected levels of safety by 1 June 2020.”

Standard operating procedure

On Friday, the Department of Basic Education published the updated academic calendar for schools in South Africa.

Motshekga had previously announced that students in Grades 7 and 12 would be allowed to return from 1 June.

In the most recent directive – published on Friday (29 May) – Motshekga said that the return of students in other grades will be staggered, with some students returning from 6 July, while the last of the country’s learners are expected to return from 3 August.

Motshekga said that only those schools that have complied with the minimum health, safety and social distancing measures on Covid-19 will be allowed to open.

The Department of Basic Education sent a document to schools outlining the standard operating procedure during lockdown.

The document also contains rules for all learners, educators, support staff, officials, parents and communities:

  • Avoid gatherings.
  • Maintain a social distance of at least 1.5-2 metres to others, where possible.
  • Every learner, staff member and visitor must wear a cloth mask at all times.
  • Avoid direct contact with others e.g. shaking hands or hugging.
  • Frequently wash hands with water and soap.
  • Avoid touching the face (i.e. eyes, nose, mouth) with unwashed hands.
  • Eradicate all forms of stigma and discrimination as a result of Covid-19.

Read:  This is the new calendar for schools in South Africa – including the planned start dates for all grades

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