Pretoria – On Tuesday Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga unveiled plans for the phased reopening of schools from 1 June.
She said in a plan approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet; schools would reopen for Grades 7 and 12, and other small schools first, followed by other grades at later stages.
Motshekga said reopening schools has to be done in a manner that did not contribute to the spread of the corona virus.
“If there is anything we have learned and appreciated from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that we are all in this together. This is unchartered waters and that is why we have relied heavily on the advice of experts in the medical fraternity under the leadership of the Department of Health,” she said.
She pointed out that during the lockdown 1 577 schools were vandalised, damaged and burnt, 336 in Gauteng and 463 in KwaZulu-Natal.
“This is a disturbing trend that will set us back in trying to get back the academic programme,” she said.
She added that the Department of Basic Education is in the process of distributing sanitisers, masks, water and sanitation facilities.
“Schools are also being cleaned ahead of the arrival of pupils. It will be compulsory for all pupils to wear masks, starting before they board transport such as buses or taxis on their way to school,” she said.
She added that the department is working with health professionals and the Department of Public Service and Administration to issue guidelines for staff and teachers who have comorbidities; illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which may worsen corona virus infection.
“We urge parents to work closely with schools to ensure pupils with pre-existing illnesses are also assisted, schools shall work with parents to obtain the necessary information from parents. We will use innovative methods about how health, safety, social or physical distancing requirements are met in schools,” Motshekga said.
She explained that a trimmed curriculum would be sent to schools for planning purposes.
“School sports will not be permitted as that would increase chances of infection; when classes dismiss learners must go home,” she said.
Motshekga said school trips and visits have been suspended.
“We focus on the core business of basic education, which is curriculum implementation,” she said.
She added that nutrition programmes will be reopened for all pupils. “All food handlers will be provided with required personal protective equipment, including gloves, aprons and masks,” she said.
She added that the department is working with organisations on the phased approach to reopen special schools.
“Early childhood development centres (ECDs) provide care for children of essential service workers and people returning to work. Careful consideration will be made to ensure a balance between allowing ECDs to operate, alongside the safety of the children and their caregivers,” Motshekga said.