The academic year came to a grinding halt with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. However, schools will be reopening in a matter of days.
On Tuesday, May 19, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, addressed the nation, focusing on the preparations for reopening the schools.
Minister Motsheka emphasised that schools reopening was always going to happen. This is because Cabinet agreed that it was important to save the academic year. However, she explained that key principles would be implemented to ensure the safety of learners, teachers and school staff.
“We agreed that we needed to rise from the coronavirus pandemic, working closely together and move forward, albeit under different conditions. If there is anything that we have learned and appreciate from the COVID-19 pandemic, is that we are all in this together.”
State of readiness
According to Minister Motshekga, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on May 18. The purpose of the meeting, to consider the latest reports on the state of readiness for the reopening of schools. CEM was noted the progress that has been made
Furthermore, the delivery of the COVID-19 essentials is being done in all provinces to ensure the safety of schools. The items regarded as essential are: sanitizers, masks, water and sanitation, and schools will be cleaned.
The department is working with health professionals, who have profiled the sector and will be issuing guidelines on how to manage schools.
“We also urge parents to work closely with schools, to ensure that learners with pre-existing illness are also assisted. Schools will work with parents to obtain the information which once again needs to be treated with the utmost care. This matter is of paramount importance and we appeal for cooperation in this regard,” says Minister Motshekga.
Re-engineering basic education
“It has become clear that the coronavirus has forced us to re-engineer the basic education system. A fundamental review of the system has become necessary, if we are to minimize the impact on the sector in the long term. However, in the short term and in keeping with the goal of managing the academic year, we have come up with several measures to help the sector recover some of the lost time.”
Minister Motshekga says the department will be looking at innovative methods to address meet health, safety, social or physical distancing requirements. Furthermore, a trimmed curriculum will be sent to schools for planning purposes.
“We expect that the role of the School Principal and School Management Team (SMT) will be affirmed in assuming the overall responsibility of the day to day running of the school. They are expected to put measures in place for equitable allocation of periods or time for teachers to cover the scope of the curriculum in saving the academic year.”
Schools must be aware that all curriculum enrichment programmes will be put on hold until further notice.
On the reopening of schools
The National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet have approved that schools will reopen on June 1.
“We will start with grades 7 and 12 and small schools. The other grades will follow in due course,” says Minister Motshekga.
All learners, educators and support staff will receive the necessary orientation and training when schools re-open.
Furthermore, Minister Motshekga says the department is aware of the impact of the lockdown on families and society in general.
“It is unprecedented and as a result, an increase in social, mental, psychological and emotional difficulties amongst learners, educators and officials, is anticipated due to losses and trauma experienced through COVID-19. Schools as social institutions are serviced by the Psychosocial Support Services of the Departments of Social Development and Health. We have been working closely together with other departments in the Social Cluster.”
In addition to these, the Basic Education Sector has psychologists and social workers who had prior training on counselling. They will be able to use their skills to support schools.
On the revised school calendar
With the NCCC confirming schools can open on June 1, the revised school calendar will be gazetted soon. It indicates the opening and closing dates and the breaks in between.
Early Childhood Development Centres
The easing of the lockdown restrictions has seen many more people in addition to those providing essential services returning to work.
“The regulations for Level 3 are being finalised and we believe there will be a solution to this matter very soon. We understand that Early Childhood Development centres also provide the necessary caring and feeding services for children from families. Due and careful consideration will be made to ensure that we maintain the delicate balance between allowing ECDs to operate, alongside the safety and health of the children and their caregivers. We are working together with the Department of Social Development on this matter as it straddles both departments at the moment,” explains Minister Motshekga.
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