A sense of trepidation filled parents, following Director-general for Basic Education, Hubert Mathanzima Mweli announcing that schools could possibly open May 6 under a phased approach.
However, he stressed the dates were subject to change and subject to final approval by the National Command Council.
Looking at a draft amended school calendar, schools would start on May 4 for teachers. The proposed dates for the learners were:
- Grade 7 and Grade 12 – May 6
- Grade 6 and Grade 11 – May 20
- Grade 5 and Grade 10 – June 3
- Grade 4 and Grade 9 – June 17
- Grade 3 and Grade 8 – July 1
- Grade 1 and Grade 2 – July 8
- Grade R – July 15
However, parents and several teachers and unions alike were not pleased with the proposed draft. Many believed this would put school staff and children at danger.
After briefing the National Coronavirus Command Council on April 29, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was expected to provide clarity on the dates on April 30. This follows a virtual meeting of Parliament’s education committees on April 29. Social cluster ministers felt the proposed dates were too early.
The situation was cleared up on Thursday, April 30, with the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande, and Minister Motshekga addressing the nation.
Minister Nzimande explained that from the moment that President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the COVID-19 pandemic as a national disaster on March 15, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, in conjunction with institutions, have put all post-school educational on early recess.
Looking to the future, Nzimande said while it was important to save lives, it should not be done at the expense of lives. Therefore, efforts to save the academic year must avoid worsening the infection curve.
“We will be implementing a risk-adjusted strategy for the entire PSET sector based on the national COVID-19 protocols,” he explained.
From there, the department will direct and manage the way institutions carry out their academic mandates withing this strategic and policy framework.
Guided by the work and decisions of the National Command Council, Nzimande says it has been decided not to resume with campus-based academic activity throughout the PSET sector. This will include all universities and TVET colleges, both public and private, during the Level 4 lockdown period.
The only exception will be the controlled return of the final year Clinical Training (medical) students. This will be under strict conditions, as to assist with the health management campaign of the Department of Health.
As the risk of exposing students to COVID-19 is too high, Nzimande explained a number of interventions will be taken to assist student.
This will include developing and implementing effective multi-modal remote learning systems. This is as to provide a reasonable level of academic support to all students, at all institutions, to presume academic learning and teaching support.
“As we are in an unprecedented emergency, we have to use all available tools to reach our students fully cognisant, that it will not substitute the need for contact learning when conditions permit.”
With Minister Blade Nzimande and his team putting a plan of action together, what about schools? Will children be going to school from May 6?
Minister Motshekga explained the National Coronavirus Command Council approved that the school calendar for the remainder of 2020 will be adjusted.
The adjustments will see office-based staff return to work on May 4. They will be followed by the School management teams on May 11. This is so the School Management Teams can prepare the schools for the return of the learners.
Teachers will return to work on May 18, while Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners will return to school on June 1.
Upon learners return to school, measures will be implemented for social distancing.
This will include:
- Not more than two learners per desk.
- No hugging or handshaking.
- Face masks to be worn at all times.
- There will be no sport matches, choral practices, festivals or eisteddfods.
With schools planned to open for learners as of June 1, what are your thoughts? Do you feel schools will be ready for learners by then? Or do you feel the risk of exposure to COVID-19 will still be too high? Share your thoughts and views with us in the comment section below.