Education minister Angie Motshekga says that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) plans to reopen schools for more grades, despite 775 schools being affected by Covid-19 since reopening to grade 7 and 12 pupils on 8 June.
The education department noted in a statement that 523 pupils, 1,169 staff members and 775 schools have been affected by Covid-19.
“Schools have been temporarily closed and reopened around the country in the past three weeks to allow affected areas to be disinfected,” it said.
As many as six million pupils are set to return to school from 6 July, despite calls from teachers and union, Sadtu to keep institutions closed.
Pupils in grades R, 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11 are due to return to the country’s 23,675 public schools.
— Elijah Mhlanga (@ElijahMhlanga) June 27, 2020
Education minister Angie Motshekga said in a Sunday Times column that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) plans to reopen schools for more grades “soon.”
“As the basic education sector, we are Covid-19 battle-hardened and ready,” said Motshekga.
“We understand the contestation from some quarters as this is a new terrain of struggle, but we shouldn’t allow panic to guide public policy.”
She added that research shows the longer children from poorer backgrounds are not at school, the less likely they are to return at all.
“Furthermore, the current wave of Covid-19 cases reported in schools since June 8 is classic community transmissions; as yet they are not originating from our facilities,” she said.
However, Motshekga cautioned that community transmissions will eventually become “bushfires” within schools, adding that “it is not a matter of if, but when.”
New teaching methods
Schools in South Africa will have to adopt new teaching methods to deal with the coming influx of children returning to schools next month, especially where spacing issues limit capacity for social distancing.
In an update on the re-opening of schools presented on Thursday (25 June), minister Angie Motshekga said that she believes that despite criticism, government made the right decision in open schools at level 3 lockdown.
“The decision to open schools was not taken lightly. We fully appreciate the anxiety and tension that comes with it, but we feel we had to operate again.
“We were driven by the guidance and understanding from the health department, but also by international trends relating to the schooling environment,” she said. All these bodies had research and data that agreed with the decision, the minister said.
Motshekga said that her mandate was that safety of the children comes first, and the salvaging of the school year be contingent on this.
The minister said a number of measures have been taken to protect children going back to school. These include:
- Providing every child with two cloth masks;
- Ensuring that schools are clean before opening;
- Social distancing measures, keeping children 1.5 meters apart – including physical markings;
- Orientating teachers around Covid-19 protocols, and continued educating children on these;
- Employing a full-time screener to ensure anyone who enters the school is cleared;
- Ongoing monitoring of these factors;
- No school is allowed to open unless all these factors are in place.
Motshekga said that since re-opening schools, her department has seen attendance levels of around 98%, which she said is proof that parents trust the department to handle the situation at schools.
Earlier this month the DBE also published the amended school calendar for 2020, highlighting the four school terms for 2020:
- Term 1: 15 January – 18 March
- Term 2: 8 June – 7 August
- Term 3: 12 August – 23 September
- Term 4: 5 October – 15 December