Basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Saturday (24 July) briefed the media on the state of readiness for the reopening of schools in South Africa.
The minister said that the sector had targeted 582,000 personnel in the Basic Education Sector to be vaccinated, “and when we formally closed the vaccination programme, we recorded 517,000 people, who have received the vaccines – an 89% vaccination success rate”.
“Reports on the reasons for outstanding numbers, include distance to vaccination sites, vaccination hesitancy, preference of one type of vaccine to another, recent positive Covid-19 results, as well as medical and religious reasons – all account for some of the people, who are still not vaccinated,” Motshekga said.
On the reopening of schools
The minister said that depending on confirmation by president Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday, as a sector there is agreement across the board, that the department is ready for the reopening of schools on Monday, 26 July 2021.
“School Management Teams and support staff, have already gone back to work, as from Thursday, 22 July 2021, to prepare for the return of learners and teachers on Monday, 26 July 2021.”
Based on the information obtained from provinces, Motshekga said that schools are ready to continue to work within the established Covid-19 health protocols.
She also added that the country is ready to start resuming full school attendance in primary schools from 2 August 2021.
“The sector continues to be committed, and at all times we are ready to maintain a balance between saving lives and livelihoods while fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” the minister said.
On the vandalism of schools
The minister expressed deep concern about the vandalism of schools in recent weeks. During the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, schools and education centres were damaged, vandalised and looted, Motshekga said.
The KZN Department of Education has submitted a list of 137 schools that were vandalised, three education centres, and eight circuit offices that were affected.
In Gauteng, more than 43 schools have been vandalised since the year began. Eleven of the cases were reported after schools went on a recess on 2 July 2021.
On May/June matric examinations
The 2021 May/June examination is the second examination opportunity that is offered to candidates who wrote the November 2020 examinations; and is also an examination for adult candidates sitting for matric examinations, the minister said.
The writing of this examination commenced on Wednesday, 26 May 2021, and concluded on Wednesday, 7 July 2021.
A total of 249,851 candidates enrolled to write this examination. This included both the National Senior Certificate and Senior Certificate candidates. 106,711 of these candidates were National Senior Certificate candidates, and 143,140 of these candidates were Senior Certificate candidates.
This examination was conducted under strict Covid-19 protocols and they were followed to the latter, the minister said.
The DBE and the Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) monitored the writing of the May/June 2021 Grade 12 examination.
“The writing of the examination was successfully concluded without any major disruptions. With the early closure of schools on 30 June 2021, due to the move to adjusted Alert Level 4, school principals were requested to administer the examination until its conclusion,” Motshekga said.
The marking of the May / June 2021 Grade 12 examination, commenced on 8 July 2021, and concluded on Monday, 19 July 2021. A total of 772,404 scripts had to be marked, and a total of 9,323 markers were utilised for the marking across the 54 marking centres.
“Even in this instance, Covid-19 health protocols were strictly adhered to. Despite the protest actions and the looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the marking was successfully completed; and the capturing of marks is currently in progress.
“The DBE will complete the processing of all candidate data for the Umalusi standardisation meeting of 06 August 2021, and the results will be released to candidates on 24 August 2021. The NSC candidates, who were not successful in this May/June examination, can register to write the November 2021 NSC examination,” Motshekga said.
On school calendars
The minister said that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused serious disruptions in the sector, and plans have not always gone as intended.
“This has, however, not deterred us from continuing to plan, as we are confident that at some point, we will find a way to return to normal business. Earlier this year, we published the school calendar for 2022. As usual, we followed the necessary steps that involve public participation to obtain input.”
The minister said that the proposed school calendar for 2023 has been gazetted for public comment. It has been published on all the DBE platforms.
The proposed calendar has coastal schools reopening from 18 January until 31 March 2023, while the inland schools would reopen from 11 January to 24 March 2023.
Teachers from coastal schools would return on 16 January, while inland teachers would return on 9 January.
It also proposes that the fourth term run from 10 October to 13 December 2023, for both inland and coastal schools.
“A staggered calendar is proposed – one for coastal provinces, and another for inland provinces. As I said, your inputs are important, and we urge you to go through the proposed 2023 school calendar and submit your comments in writing. The details are available on the draft calendar itself,” the minister said.