Schools will re-open on the 1st of June for grade 7 and 12 learners after being closed for more than two months due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made the announcement on Thursday evening at a joint media briefing alongside the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande.
This is despite concerns on the increasing numbers of infections in big metros such as Tshwane, Johannesburg, Buffalo City, Ethekhwini and the City of Cape Town.
Announcing the department’s recovery plan, Motshekga said each province, district, circuit and school must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented.
“The past few weeks have affected South Africans in many ways we have never experienced before. This, there has been an increase in anxiety and confusion in relation to the status of schooling, and when learners would be allowed to go back into their schools,” said Motshekga.
She said the department has worked with provinces to prepare for the re-opening of schools.
“Each province, district, circuit and school, must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented. The plans must talk to the risk profiles of the areas in which schools are located, and this must be based on the infection rate in the specific geographical areas,” she said.
Motshekga said the safety of learners and teachers was imperative and as a result she consulted widely on the matter.
She said class sizes will be limited, social distancing will be required, and so will wearing masks on transport and in school.
No hugging and shaking of hands will be allowed during and after school.
Cloth masks should also be worn by learners and teachers at all times.
“The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) agreed on a number of steps that must be taken to ensure that the health and safety of our learners and teachers are not compromised. These measures are contained in the Standard Operating Procedures Booklet, which will be used in all schools,” she said.
She said the department also held high-profile meetings South African Democratic Teacher Union (SADTU), National Professional Teachers of South Africa (NAPTOSA), Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), National Association of Teacher Union (NATU), and Professional Educators Union (PEU).
The department also met with dozens of other stakeholders such Umalusi, universities and the South African Principal Association (SAPA), Federation of Association of Governing Bodies (FEDSAS) and the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB).
“In all the meetings the principle of opening of schools at the right time was accepted once all the conditions have been met. They proposed that in order to deal with social distancing they requested the department to use community and town halls, platooning and shifting,” said Motshekga.
“They requested the department to provide Personal Protection Equipment. The department should provide awareness campaign to parents particularly in rural areas. They also proposed that the phased in reopening should also include special schools.”
“We have also received representations from ordinary members of the public, who are concerned about the impact of the COVID-19, insofar as it affects schools. We appreciate all the proposals; it is really helpful.”
“We are also mindful of the huge size of the sector and the many responsibilities we have in our hands.”