Ramaphosa on getting children back to school in South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that South Africa’s schools will be ready for the safe return of students under the country’s level 3 lockdown.

Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, Ramaphosa said that over the last few weeks government has held extensive and detailed discussions with all role-players in the education sphere.

“Now, in the last few days, several of these stakeholders – including teachers and parents – have expressed concern about the state of readiness in many schools.

“We have heard them, we welcome their contributions and are taking steps to address their concerns as well as proposals,” he said.

Ramaphosa acknowledged that parents want reassurance that the necessary precautions should be in place to adequately protect learners.

“The safety of our youngest citizens from a health and physical perspective is not negotiable. It is our foremost priority,” he said.

“As we prepare for the gradual re-opening of our schools and places of higher learning, education authorities have been hard at work putting the necessary health and safety measures in place.

“That documentation regarding standard operating procedures have been provided to all schools. These standard operating procedures cover issues like training and orientation of screeners, timetable realignment and configuring classrooms to meet social distancing requirements.”

Ramaphosa added that government is continuing with the process of delivering personal protective equipment and ensuring the availability of water and sanitation services.

Learning, once it commences, will take place under strict conditions with a correctly limited number of learners and students, he said.

“Though we may feel anxious and fearful as our sons and daughters leave our care, we must draw courage from the fact that every effort is being made to protect them.

“As parents, you have entrusted us with the welfare and safety of your children. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. In the days and weeks to come, we will be closely monitoring the return to school.”

New return date

Schools will open for all grade 7 and 12 pupils on Monday, 8 June 2020, the Department of Basic Education said in a statement on Sunday evening.

This follows meetings with the Council of Education Minister (CEM) on Saturday, to assess the state of readiness for the reopening of schools, where the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM), also presented its technical report.

CEM was concerned that, in some provinces personal protective equipment for learners in particular, had not been received; and some schools had not been made ready for the arrival of teachers and learners,” the department’s statement read.

It said that CEM took informed decisions to have schools to continue to reopen on 1 June 2020, but with School Management Teams, Teachers and Non-Teaching Staff only arriving to prepare for the arrival of learners.

Provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements, are strictly adhered to when teachers arrive.

“This whole coming week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping and ramping of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.

“The date on which all learners have to report back to school is 8 June 2020,” it said.

Read: South Africa should delay reopening of schools: Human Rights Commission

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Ramaphosa on getting children back to school in South Africa