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Reopening Of Schools Delayed Due To COVID-19 Concerns From The Department of Health, Education Portfolio Committee Hears

DEPARTMENT of Basic Education has briefed Parliament that the decision to delay the reopening schools in 2021 was based on a request from the Ministry of Health.

During a briefing from the Department of Basic Education, the portfolio committee on basic education heard that the request to delay the reopening of schools came because hospitals and other health institutions were overstretched due to the ‘Second Wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The portfolio committee chairperson, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said the update from basic education provided a better understanding of the reason behind the delay in the reopening of schools.

“In understanding the challenges and constraints in the health system, the decision to delay the reopening of schools for the start of the academic year was the correct one,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.  

“The reality is that Covid-19 is around. It has dealt with our families and friends. If delaying the restart of schools means that we can save family and friends, then we are in favour of this.”

Department Of Basic Education further told Parliament that the school management teams (SMTs) will start work on Monday, January 25, to prepare for the year ahead.

The department also told the committee that the rate of hospitalisations has risen with the ‘Second Wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitalisations for children remains low, at around 25 hospitalisations per week for those aged 5 to 14, Parliament heard.  

However, there has been an increase in infection in older children and young adults, as shown by research globally.  

As for educators, 16 495 have been infected with 409 fatalities since March 2020, Parliament heard.
 
The department also told Parliament that marking for the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations occurred in all provinces in 177 marking centres.

Marks should be finalised on Friday, 22 January, as the majority of provinces have already completed marking, with only two provinces still marking some papers. However, this work will be completed timeously.
 
The 2020 exam scripts were marked by 45 272 markers, of which 1 738 had to be substituted by others due to infection or fear of infection.

The department had planned for this eventuality and had 10-15% addition markers in reserve.
 
The capturing of marks is being done by 611 employees at 34 capturing centres across all nine provinces, each managed by a system administrator.

Safety and security protocols are in place.

“The committee has planned to receive a further update in about three weeks on the readiness to release matric results,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.
Some general and educator assistants were not paid stipends in December, the department informed the committee, as money transfers to schools occurred after some schools had closed for the year. However, all payments should be up to date by the end of next week.

(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)

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