The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will recommend that cabinet close schools across South Africa as the country’s surge in Covid-19 cases continues.
TimesLive reports that schools will close for three weeks, citing sources within the teacher unions that attended a Department of Education meeting on Wednesday night (22 July).
The recommendation is set to be tabled with cabinet on Thursday, with either president Cyril Ramaphosa or Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga expected to make a public announcement in the coming days.
This is largely in line with recommendations made by a group of teachers unions last week, with the unions indicating that schools should reopen at the end of August 2020 unless the situation dictates otherwise.
The unions said that Grade 12 students should be prioritised, with different models to assist them while they are at home should be investigated. The unions said that Grade 12 pupils should return on Monday, 17 August 2020.
“When the debate about reopening of schools began, it was guided by the science that the children were not susceptible to infections and that even if infected, were not infectious, and although they were not likely to infect other children they could infect those with vulnerabilities, especially the elderly, teachers and education workers,” said teachers union, Naptosa.
“The South African situation has disproved this science with many learners having been infected and some even losing their lives. Evolving science also now supports the possibility that there could be an airborne spread of the virus.”
On Tuesday (22 July), Motshekga said that cabinet will make a final announcement on the closure of South African schools.
“After solid consultations in the past week, and after the cabinet’s approval, we will be able to indicate what should happen in the sector in the face of an ongoing spike in (coronavirus) infections,” she said.
“There are also loud voices saying that we should close schools. The debate has become (moot) now in the sense that we have agreed as a sector that we will listen to everybody and take a fair decision.
“We will definitely come with a consensus position as soon as the cabinet has given approval.”
Findings from researchers at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) show that the majority South Africans believe schools should close for the remainder of the year.
The survey sampled 2,500 people on their thoughts around the possible closure of schools in the country, amid a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 people, including teachers and pupils.
The Department of Education re-opened schools to some students in early June, however, many have been forced to close again due to increasing number of infections reported.
A number of grades have also not returned to school since the introduction of restrictions in mid-March, with some grades only set to return as late as September.
As part of a staggered return plan, Grade 7 and Grade 12 students returned at the start of June, while Grade R, Grade 6 and Grade 11 students returned at the start of July.