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Embattled Basic Education Minister Delays Announcement On Reopening of Schools

A media briefing to announce the Department of Basic Education’s preparations towards the re-opening of schools has been postponed until further notice.  

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was expected to provide details that include the final dates and detailed plans, for the phased approach to the possible reopening of schools.

The department on Thursday said she has now convened a special meeting of the Council of Education Ministers to consider progress made towards the reopening of schools.

On Monday, Motshekga held a meeting with School Governing Bodies, education teachers’ unions and the Council of Education Ministers after school management teams workers did not report for duty.

Teachers’ unions said in a joint statement this week that no SMTs or teachers will report for duty until the non-negotiables were addressed by basic education department.

“We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise all the outstanding issues. So on Monday (18 May) we will reconvene to consider progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness. A lot of work has happened and we are happy with the progress reported in the last meeting but we need confirmation of deliveries that provinces were waiting for,” said Motshekga.

This follows the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday night, who announced that the National COVID-19 Command Council was still engaged in consultations about easing of lockdown regulations from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3. 

Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that the country will drop Level 3 at the end of May, adding that provinces – Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape – with increasingly high number of cases will remain on Alert Level 4. 

Motshekga said the delays in the deliverables were attributed to challenges with the supplier of PPEs which resulted in the cancellation of contracts. 

“Various provinces had to find new suppliers to deliver the material this week, in the meeting on Monday we will receive a full report which we can then share with the public. We will also use the meeting to table President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address which is also important for our planning purposes,” added Motshekga. 

The Director-General of the Department of Basic Education, Mathanzima Mweli said that the implementation of the basic education sector risk-based differentiated approach in reopening schools would be assisted by Ramaphosa’s address.

“We will convene a special meeting of the heads of education departments from all provinces and the minister will meet with MECs on Monday to discuss the progress made. Thereafter we will announce to public. Nobody has experience in managing a crisis of this magnitude so we follow expert advice that is why we need to be extremely careful how we proceed in every step,” said Mweli.

Last month, Motshekga announced that teachers would return to work on May 18, saying Grade 7 and 12 learners would return on June 1.

However, teachers’ unions said this will not happen until the DBE is able to convince the nation that schools are ready and safe for both staff and learners.

(Compiled Inside Education staff)

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