During a briefing on the plans for reopening of schools on May 19, minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga addressed various concerns regarding the return of pupils and outlined plans that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
The minister stated that based on the reports by MECs, all information gathered suggests that schools, even those in metropolitan areas, should and will reopen as planned from June 1.
Motshekga stressed that careful attention will be paid to water and sanitation at each and every school with The Department of Sanitation delivering tanks of water to schools that need it just in time for reopening.
“Items such as sanitiser and masks will be delivered to schools and of course schools will be cleaned. We will pay special attention to the safety of all staff, teachers and learners,” Motshekga added.
During the briefing parents were urged to work closely with schools to address the unique needs of their children especially those with existing medical conditions.
To managed the spacing of learners the minster said that additional proposals had been considered and based on the size and nature of each school and plan would be laid out to address this issue. One such measure that will be employed is the splitting of classes to ensure smaller groups are taught while adhering to social distancing regulations.
Private schools will be treated differently than public schools, smaller schools will be treated differently than larger schools. Special schools and private schools are being engaged as a different sector and together these schools and the Department of Education will address the ways reopening will be handled.
The minster also condemned the vandalism of over 1500 schools since the lockdown first started. Saying that this was one of the reasons supplies for the safety of staff and learners could not be delivered to schools at an earlier date.
“School nutrition will also be considered in our phase in approach. Measures have been put in place to ensure learners returning will be feed by trained individuals at schools,” added Motshekga
Transport will also be closely monitored with strict measures in place to ensure the safety of learners.
As planned schools will reopen on the first of June starting with Grades 7 and 12 with the unique environment of each school being considered.
All learners, staff and teachers will go through orientation to help them adjust to new regulations within their school, work and teaching environments
“We are aware that the virus has put stress and anxiety on learners and we have made available services to address this,”Motshekga stated.
Professionals will be made available by the Psychosocial Support Services of the Departments of Social Development and Health to schools to support students and staff as they return to classrooms.
The minister also confirmed that the new school calendar will be gazetted soon, as the plans of the Education Department have now been approved.
She also stated that a plan around the reopening of early childhood development schools will be announced shortly and possibly sooner than expected.
Motshekga also stated that independent monitors had been appointed to verify and monitor challenges and experiences across the country.
An independent call centre will be made available to parents and principals so they are able to voice concerns and experiences.
The minster thanked UNICEF for their advice and provision of information throughout the process involved in the planning for reopening of schools.
A concerned parent questioned during the briefing whether parents will be safe from the virus at home when their children return from school. To this the Minister said all children will be screened on a daily basis to ensure no children will go home with the virus.
In ending her address the minster added that one of the main drivers for having children return to schools was the negative impact that disruptions from instructional time in the classroom can have on pupils. The minster said this can contribute towards anxiety, poor mental health and stress, she stated that the lack of peer interaction also has a negative affect on children.
“Schools are built for children and that is why we have to take them back to schools,” she ended.