Schools stay closed

MOTSHEKGA, MATSIE ANGELINA

Parents and staff at most schools in the Southern Mail’s distribution area and around the country decided to start the term on Monday June 8 for Grade 7s and 12s.

On Sunday May 31 parents and staff were left confused about whether to send their children to school or not and were waiting for an announcement from the national Department of Basic education through a media briefing.

Schools opened for teachers on Monday May 25 but some of them closed again as teachers tested positive for the deadly Covid-19.

The planned briefing was, however, postponed leaving pupils, parents and staff in limbo.

The briefing was then held on Monday June 1, the first day of level 3 lockdown, to give an assessment of the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.

The issue of readiness has been widely discussed and debated over the past month and teacher unions have been adamant that teachers would not go back to school unless their safety requirements were met (“Anxiety as schools reopen”, Southern Mail, May 27).

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said the department received a report from the consortium of service providers co-ordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the External Evaluation and Monitoring of the state of readiness.

The Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM), also presented its technical report.

“All reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening, albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected 80% state of readiness,” said Ms Motshekga.

She said the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) was concerned that, in some provinces personal protective equipment for learners in particular, had not been received; and some schools had not been made ready for the arrival of teachers and pupils.

“CEM then took decisions, which have since been shared with teacher unions, school governing body associations, independent schools’ associations, the SA Human Rights Commission, Principals Association, South African National Association for Specialized Education, and other stakeholders. CEM took informed decisions to have schools continue to reopen on Monday June 1 but only with school management teams,
wteachers and non-teachings staff be at schools to prepare for the arrival of learners,” said Ms Motshekga.

The department added that this week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping and ramping of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.

School timetables will be adjusted to help catch up on lost time.

Ms Motshekga added that any further delay to the start of school would disadvantage pupils.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Education Department MEC Debbie Schafer said schools could no longer be left to “hover in a state of uncertainty” and would reopen in the province on June 1 as originally announced by the minister.

She said the province had “pulled out all the stops” to get schools ready for the June 1 deadline”.

“Principals and staff have worked tirelessly to get all the health and safety requirements in place,” she said, adding that R280 million had been spent on protective gear and cleaning materials for schools, including 2.4 million masks (two for each pupil and staff member) and 7000 non-contact digital thermometers and millions of litres of hand sanitiser, liquid soap, disinfectant and bleach.