The Basic Education Department on Sunday announced that grade seven and 12 pupils should now return to school on 8 June.
On Sunday, the department was due to brief the country on the plans for other pupils to return to school. That briefing was postponed initially by two hours, and then again to Monday at 11am. In a nighttime statement on Sunday, the department announced this decision was reached after the Council of Education Minister (CEM) met on Saturday to assess the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.
“CEM received a report from the Consortium of service providers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the External Evaluation and Monitoring of the state of readiness. Rand Water, as an Implementing Agent delivering water to 3 500 schools, also presented its report.
“The heads of education departments committee (HEDCOM), also presented its technical report. All three reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening tomorrow, albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected 80% state of readiness,” the department said in a statement.
The department said that the 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 learners.
“The date on which Grade 7 and 12 learners have to report back to school, is the 08 June 2020,” the statement read.
Grade sevens and matrics were meant to go back to school on 1 June as part of the department’s rephasing in of pupils at schools. This plan was announced two weeks ago.
The department said it received news that many children had already arrived at some boarding schools, and said it should not send them back home.
“We urge the schools to continue with orientation of the learners in terms of the health and safety procedures that should be in place.”
Meanwhile, the Western Cape Education Department said its schools would be open to children on 1 June as per the gazetted date by government.
“We have been engaged in discussions at a national level over the weekend, and were awaiting the Minister’s announcement that was scheduled for 18h00 this evening. Given that this has now been postponed until tomorrow, we can no longer allow our schools to hover in a state of uncertainty,” Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer said in a statement, also released on Sunday night.
Schafer said the required amount of PPEs such as hand sanitiser and gloves have been delivered to schools for grade 7 and 12 pupils.
“Given these preparations, and the enormous effort put in by teachers and non-teaching staff alike, it would be unfair to delay all schools from re-opening,” said Schafer.
Schafer said the arguments by some that all schools should open at the same time to ensure no one gets left behind were disingenuous.
“They argue that the poor will be left behind. Well the reality is that the poor ARE being left behind now, as wealthier schools or parents have the means to continue online. Our schools are overwhelmingly ready, including schools that serve poor communities,” said Schafer.
The province has prepared transport for children for those on the Learner Transport Scheme, and some schools have already arranged for the provision of school meals.