An inter-ministerial media briefing on coronavirus interventions in South Africa was held on Monday after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster.
Below is the statement by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, at the media briefing.
The President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
The President then announced a range of extraordinary interventions to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Following the President’s announcement we urgently convened a meeting of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).
The purpose of the meeting was to brief provinces on the outcome of the Cabinet meeting and to discuss with them the practical implications of the President’s announcement last night. We shared with them the reasons behind the Cabinet decision to declare a national state of disaster.
An assessment was done on the current state of affairs regarding COVID-19 and it was felt that drastic steps were needed. The number of cases have been rising rapidly and it was decided that urgent steps were needed to contain the spread.
Schools in particular have been identified as one of the biggest threats in terms of the transmission. We considered that closing schools should take place but we also needed to give parents time to prepare for it. The drastic step of closing schools has become necessary but we also needed to ensure that measures are put in place to mitigate the impact.
ON THE CLOSING OF SCHOOLS
In accordance with the pronouncement by the President on 15 March 2020, schools will be closed from 18 March 2020.
As a sector we have determined that schools should resume on 14 April 2020; unless determined differently. If that happens will communicate with parents. We are going to lose 10 school days as a result of the school closures.
To compensate for lost days the June holidays will be cut short by a week. Once opened schools will be encouraged to extend tuition hours.
It must be noted that this directive affects all schools; public ordinary schools, independent schools and private. The technical aspects of these measures will be addressed by the concerned parties. Let’s keep in mind that the President has declared a national disaster which means that we are operating under extra ordinary conditions.
The CEM meeting agreed on a number of steps that must be taken to ensure that education is not compromised. Each province, district, circuit and school must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented. As things stand right now and based on expert advice we should be able to manage coronavirus such that the negative impact on schooling is minimized.
All mass events of more than 100 people scheduled for March and April will be postponed or cancelled with immediate effect. The activities include the South African School Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE), all school sports programmes and of course assemblies.
We will intensify the Read to Lead campaign with our partners to ensure that it is used to assist learners and parents alike to get involved in literacy initiatives. We urge schools to give learners work they can do at home with the supervision of parents. Schools are encouraged to give learners workbooks and worksheets to be used to keep learners active on curriculum based initiatives.
OUR ENRICHMENT PROGRAMMES
The school enrichment programmes will also be affected by the arrangements. We will this week provide guidelines on how the school enrichment programmes are going to be managed because we want to ensure that those in matric in particular are not disadvantaged.
Due to the infection rate we need to work together to contain the transmission of the virus and as a sector we have to play our part together with all our stakeholders. There are basic things we can do.
We therefore appeal to South Africans familiarise ourselves with the directives of the Department of Health and NICD.
- Follow the directives from the President and the Minister; read the circular and share the content with parents.
- Be vigilant and look out for symptoms of fever (more than 38 degrees Celsius), coughing and shortness of breath.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Practise safe cough etiquette. Cough or sneeze into your flexed elbow or into a tissue and immediately dispose of the tissue in a safe place e.g.bin.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as well as handshakes.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, spaces and areas of the school.
- Identify, isolate and report learners, teachers or support staff showing symptoms especially if they have had contact with, or have travelled to highly affected countries as reported by the WHO.
I will this morning write to all provinces to inform them that the decree by the President is binding on all of us and that we should work together to implement as directed.
It is time that we get parents to play their part in the education of their children. We appeal to each one of us to cooperate and ensure that we put the interest of the children on top of the priority list.
As sector we will encourage our staff to get tested where possible and make sure we help those that need it.
As a sector we will continue to consult with our stakeholders such as teacher unions and SGBs to deliberate on these matters.
MEC committed that they would work with districts and circuits to ensure that there is an orderly closure of schools. The MECs would monitor schools and ensure that all work is done accordingly.
After deliberations all MECs concurred with the decisions taken and committed to implement it to the latter.