Government’s new lockdown plan for schools in South Africa

The department of basic education has detailed its plans to have learners return to full-time teaching from the end of July 2021.

Currently, most students in South Africa are learning in a ‘shift system’, with a large amount of learning and coursework still expected to be done at home in an effort to increase social distancing.

In a gazette published this weekend, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said her department will now use a risk-adjusted differentiated strategy – where school attendance is determined by the direction the pandemic is taking in specific districts or the country as a whole.

Under this system, primary school learners (Grades R to 7) must return to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model from 26 July 2021.

The department said that, where practicable, teaching and learning may be conducted outside the confines of a classroom. Schools must also use all the available rooms or spaces to prevent overcrowding in a classroom.

The movement of learners must be minimised during teaching time with teachers rotating between lessons. Schools that cannot return to the traditional timetabling model are expected to provide official reasons to the government.

Alert levels

In a presentation given to parliament on Tuesday (1 June), the department said that a four-stage alert level programme will be adopted to determine whether a school is ready for the full return of students.

If a school is in an area declared to be alert level 1 then all pupils can return on a daily basis. Schools that are determined to have a level 3 or 4 alert levels will have rotational classes with pupils attending class on alternate days.

The levels will be determined by the number of new Covid-19 cases in an area and are set to be updated every two weeks based on case numbers.

An explanation of the different levels was provided as follows:


Vigilance (Level 1 and 2) 

  • Primary and special school learners attend school daily. Secondary schools use differentiated timetabling according to capacity and resources to maintain physical distancing of a least one metre.
  • Work with home education associations to support learners who enrolled for home education.
  • Provide online/virtual learning.
  • Learners receive national school nutrition programme meals or food items through various modalities implemented in provinces.
  • Re-arrange school day programme/timetable to accommodate different grades/learners attending school on alternate days as well as platooning/shift arrangements to comply with social distancing.

Emerging hotspot (Level 3) 

  • Primary and special school learners attend school daily. Secondary schools use differentiated timetabling according to capacity and resources to maintain physical distancing of a least one metre.
  • Arrange for learner support programmes for learners who are at home. Provide work and manage feedback.
  • Work with home education associations to support learners who enrolled for home education.
  • Provide online/virtual learning
  • Learners receive national school nutrition programme meals or food items through various modalities implemented in provinces.
  • Re-arrange school day programme/timetable to accommodate different grades/learners attending school on alternate days as well as platooning/shift arrangements to comply with social distancing.

Hotspot (Level 4) 

  • All schools have rotational attendance.
  • Arrange for learner support programmes for learners who are at home. Provide work and manage feedback.
  • Work with home education associations to support learners who enrolled for home education.
  • Provide online/virtual learning.
  • Learners receive national school nutrition programme meals or food items through various modalities implemented in provinces.
  • Re-arrange school day programme/Timetable to accommodate different grades/learners attending school on alternate days as well as platooning/shift arrangements to comply with social distancing.

High-risk hotspot (Level 5)

  • Arrange for learner support programmes for learners who are at home. Provide work and manage feedback.
  • Work with home education associations to support learners.
  • Provide online/virtual learning.
  • Learners receive national school nutrition programme meals or food items through various modalities implemented in provinces.
  • Daily lessons can be collected/completed homework returned.

Read: Here is the new 2022 school calendar for South Africa

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Government’s new lockdown plan for schools in South Africa