Confusion around the closing of South Africa’s schools

A number of public schools in South Africa have chosen to remain open as they await an official government directive stating their required closure.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week that schools would close from Monday (27 July), through to 24 August. Private schools remain open.

However, the Beeld reported that some schools remain open because no official regulations around the announcement have been gazetted.

The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) chief executive Paul Colditz said that public schools were left with more questions than answers following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement.

“It is not supported by new regulations, directives or the publication of a new school calendar,” he said.

“In this case decision-makers such as school governing bodies are supposed to assume that the existing directives and calendar remain in effect.”

Colditz said Fedsas is not able to provide guidance to its members until amended directives and a new school calendar are formally published.

“However, schools are closed from Monday, which means that planning has to take place without any legal framework available. This makes an already challenging situation even more difficult.”

Although the president indicated in his speech that the decision was based on thorough consultation, the final plan was never shared with all role-players, he said.

“We were part of meetings where proposals were discussed but there was no consensus on a final plan.”

School closures

South Africa’s public school students were due to begin a four-week break from physical teaching from Monday (27 July) amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Ramaphosa said that while this break will extend from 27 July – 24 August, some grades will return at an earlier date, including:

  • Grade 12 learners will only take a one week, returning on 3 August;
  • Grade 7 learners will only take a two-week break 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, he said, would be gazetted at a later date.

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.

TimesLive reported that the Gauteng education department is planning to “possibly” phase-in pupils from seven different grades from August, with grades 3, 6, 10 and 11 anticipated to return on August 24. Grades 4, 5 and 9 are also tentatively scheduled to return on the same date.

Grades 1, 2 and 8 would return on 31 August 31, the circular said, while no mention is made for Grade R pupils.

Read: UCT to finish 2020 academic year remotely

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Confusion around the closing of South Africa’s schools