MILLIONS of learners across South Africa returned back to their classrooms on Monday to mark the beginning of the new academic year, following a two week delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Briefing the media on Sunday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said it’s all systems go despite the COVID-19 disruptions, delays in school admissions and delivery of textbooks at certain schools.
“It has been three weeks since we started phasing-in the reopening of schools for the year 2021. School Management Teams returned on 25 January and teachers have been back at work for two weeks now, since 1 February 2021,” said Motshekga.
She said the health and safety of teachers and learners will be prioritized following concerns raised by parents and teacher unions.
“We will continue to maintain the delicate balance between health and safety in schools on the one hand, while on the other, we deal with the curriculum gaps, identified during the 2020 academic year,” said Motshekga.
She said according to the latest available figures, 1 169 educators have passed away, as a direct result of COVID-19.
“This year alone, up to Friday, 12 February, the number of deceased educators stands at 159; while for non-teaching staff we have recorded 63 deaths. This is really heart-breaking, and we convey our sincere condolences to the affected families,” said Motshekga.
On Monday, various MECs of Education from the nine provinces visited a number of schools to monitor school readiness.
In Gauteng Province, MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited the newly built Abram Hlope Primary School in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg.
The Gauteng department of education said the state-of-the-art equipment will benefit hundreds of disadvantaged children in the sprawling township of Katlehong.
Lesufi was joined by Gauteng premier David Makhura, education officials and other dignitaries to handover the school on Monday morning.
In KwaZulu-Natal, MEC of Education Kwazi Mshengu handed over a R255 million state-of-the-art school – the Anton Lembede Mathematics, Sciences and Technology Academy.
The KZN department of education said the academy will put special focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and prioritize subjects like Maths, Sciences and Technology.
The school is in La Mercy has 20 classrooms that will have a capacity of 600 learners.
The department said Anton Lembede Mathematics, Science and Technology academy has one specialist classroom, a library, three computer labs and three science labs.
In the Western Cape, MEC of Education Debbie Schafer visited Aloe Junior School and various other schools in Mitchell’s Plain to see if they were adhering to COVID-19 protocols and were ready to receive learners.
“Welcome back to a new school year! After last year’s disruptions, it will be important to focus on working really hard when you are at school. Teachers have been preparing for you to get stuck in straight away,” said Schafer.
In Mpumalanga, MEC of Education Bonakele Majuba visited the Mkhulu Combined School in the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality together with Deputy Minister of the Department of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule.
“We are pleased with the safe return of learners in this adjusted opening of schools for 2021, post the Covid19 second wave peak. Much appreciation to Mpumalanga MEC for Education, Mr Bonakele Majuba for ensuring readiness,” said Dr Mhaule.
Eighteen schools in Mpumalanga are not open due to the inaccessibility of roads at Bohlabela and Ehlanzeni Districts due to the Tropical Cyclone storms.
Meanwhile, two schools in the Eastern Cape failed to reopen after they were several damaged by tropical storms.
(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)