President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that all public schools will close for four weeks as the country faces a surge in coronavirus cases.
In a media briefing on Thursday night (23 July), the president said this break will extend from 27 July until 24 August. However, he noted that some grades will return at an earlier date, including:
- Grade 12 learnerso will only take a one week break from now, returning on 3 August.
- Grade 7 learners will only take a two-week break from now, and will return on 10 August.
- Special considerations will be made for special needs schools.
Ramaphosa said that due to the delay, the current academic year will also be extended beyond the end of 2020. Further information on this extension will be gazetted at a later date.
The president said that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga met with more than 60 bodies on this issue, and that while it was difficult to find consensus on the best approach, the focus was on the safety and academic future of students.
He added that the decision to close schools was in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.
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.
Surge in cases
The closure of schools comes as South Africa faces a surge in cases and the country now has the fifth-highest reported cases in the world. The country has also reported more than 6,000 deaths.
“The storm has indeed arrived as we said it would, with the provinces of Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KZN experiencing a rapid rise in cases,” Ramaphosa said.
Despite this surge, Ramaphosa said that it is significant that more half of the confirmed cases in the country have reported a recovery.
He added that there has been a ‘levelling off’ of infections in the Western Cape since the third week of June. This provides hope that the province has passed its peak.
However, the president said that the number of infections rising in the country, there have been calls from a number of sectors in the country to close schools again.