South African Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has announced that pupils in Grades 12 and 7 are expected to return to school on June 1. She stressed this was a provisional plan, and dependent on all the correct protocols being put in place to ensure the safety of pupils and staff.
“When we say Grade 7s have to come, they will have the whole school to themselves and they will only face the other grades when the time comes for those to return to school,” Motshekga said.
She did not specify when the next group of learners will be allowed to return to school.
Senior education officials will return to work on May 4 to start putting in place all the necessary interventions that will allow teachers to return to school from May 18, Motshekga said.
The proposed changes to the school calendar will be gazetted once all consultations have taken place.
The minister stressed the resumption of lessons for the 12.4 million pupils enrolled at schools across the country will be done on a phased basis, based on scientific considerations.
“As a sector, since we closed schools at the end of March we have had almost 50 consultations with stakeholders,” Motshekga said. “In all these consultations, the principle of opening schools at the right time was accepted. Once all the conditions were met.”
Among the conditions Motshekga mentioned was the provision of face masks for all educators and pupils.
Due to the national lockdown, pupils have not been able to write mid-year examinations, and these will now be combined with the year-end exams. This includes candidates who would have re-written senior certificate subjects in June.
“The examinations which was supposed to start in May will be merged with the November exams,” Motshekga said.
She stressed the department has developed guidelines for dealing with Covid-19 in schools, based on input received from the national health department.
The Standard Operating Procedures will provide guidelines for all administrators on the steps to be undertaken in order to prevent the spread, and manage cases of Covid-19, including:
- Role of childcare facilities and schools in responding to Covid-19;
- Management of Covid-19 cases in a childcare facility or school;
- Guidelines for Heads of Departments and Supervisors on Covid-19 – procedures regarding employees;
- Management and monitoring of absenteeism is schools;
- Management of learner transport measures;
- Closure of a unit / component / office / department, if an employee tested positive for Covid-19; and
- How to clean educational establishments, where there were learners, staff members, or others, with suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19.
The department’s plans for social distancing include:
- Physical distancing in classrooms, includes not more than 2 learners sharing desks;
- No hugging or handshaking;
- Direct contact must be avoided;
- Cloth masks to be worn by learners and teachers at all times;
Sports matches, choral practices and festivals, eisteddfods are not permitted; and extra classes should be arranged in small groups that maintain social distancing, Motshekga said.
Measures pertaining to infrastructure and furniture:
- Sanitize classrooms prior to the start of school day;
- sanitize hands on entering of classrooms;
- Limit movement of learners between classes; and
- No clustering of desks in classrooms.
- Working with the Department of Transport to ensure buses are sanitized prior to start of all trips;
- Everybody to sanitize hands on entering of the buses;
- The distance between learners in the buses must be managed; and
- The wearing of masks throughout the school day, starting before boarding transport, is compulsory.
Meanwhile the South African Broadcasting Corporation announced on Thursday that it is launching a channel which will carry public service content from the Department of Education.
The public broadcaster said the addition of SABC Education to its existing portfolio of channels would benefit pupils throughout the country via digital television, online video-sharing platform YouTube and other platforms, providing them with more flexibility in accessing educational content.
“However, the viability and success of the ‘SABC Education campaign’ is dependent on sponsorships to enable (this) vital educational material to be made available to all pupils,” the SABC said.
“This is only possible if funding is made available to broadcast this material on SABC 1 and 2, the platforms with the best national reach. The SABC can provide 12 hours per day over these two channels.”