Reopening of schools in South Africa is being reviewed weekly: government

The Department of Basic Education says that it continues to assess the impact of Covid-19 in the country, but that there has been no change to its plans to reopen schools on 19 July 2021.

In response to queries from BusinessTech, ministerial spokesperson Hope Mokgatlhe said that the department currently conducts a review once a week to see if it needs to update its plans.

She said that this takes place alongside the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting, which is set to meet later this week to discuss whether to extend the country’s adjusted level 4 lockdown past 11 July.

Mokgatlhe added that ultimately any decisions around the reopening schools, as well as general lockdown regulations, would be made by the NCCC and followed by the department.

However, she confirmed that no changes had been made as yet, with discussions set to be held on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Extension likely 

Economists at the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) have warned that government is likely to extend its adjusted level 4 regulations given the significant rise in Covid-19 cases across the country.

In a research note on Monday (5 July), the group pointed to the previous week of data which shows that South Africa saw record-high increases in daily new infections of above 24,000 on Friday and Saturday.

South Africa also frequents the global top-10 list of daily new cases per country, and with vaccination rates low, also registers high daily increases in Covid-related deaths.

“Unfortunately, given the progression of the third wave since the measures were announced, we think it is likely that most, if not all, of the current restrictions will be extended,” the BER said. This will then start to have a more meaningful adverse impact on the Q3 2021 GDP performance.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa moved South Africa to a level 4 lockdown at the end of June for a two week period.  Ramaphosa said that these regulations would be reviewed by 11 July.

Return to normal schooling

While schools are set to reopen on 19 July, Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has also told school management teams to prepare for the return of a more traditional timetabling system when students return to school later this month.

In a gazette published this week, Motshekga said that educators must continue with teaching and learning from 19 July 2021, in accordance with the timetabling model adopted by the school.

This should continue until 26 July 2021, after which the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model must be effected.

The move to a full return to daily attendance and normal timetables forms part of a concerted push by Motshekga to make up for lost teaching time.

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.

This is in line with planned changes before the country moved to an adjusted level lockdown at the end of June.

Read: Changes planned for when schools reopen in South Africa

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Reopening of schools in South Africa is being reviewed weekly: government