Pupils will only return to school on June 8, the basic education department said on Sunday night.

The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on Saturday to assess the state of readiness for reopening schools, the department said in a statement.

The CEM received a report from the consortium of service providers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the external evaluation and monitoring of the state of readiness. Rand Water, as an Implementing agent delivering water to 3500 schools, also presented its report, the department said.

The Heads of Education Departments Committee (Hedcom) also presented its technical report. All three reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the planned reopening on Monday, albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected an 80 percent state of readiness.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. African News Agency (ANA)

The CEM was concerned that in some provinces personal protective equipment [PPE] for pupils in particular, had not been received; and some schools had not been made ready for the arrival of teachers and pupils.

“[The] CEM then took decisions, which have since been shared with teacher unions, school governing body associations, independent schools’ associations, the SA Human Rights Commission, Principals Association, South African National Association for Specialised Education, and other stakeholders. Meetings have taken place since yesterday [Saturday] and today [Sunday] in which we shared the outcome of the reports and the proposed course of action,” the statement said.

The CEM took informed decisions to still allow schools to reopen on June 1, but with school management teams, teachers, and non-teaching staff only working to prepare for the arrival of pupils.

Provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and physical distancing requirements were strictly adhered to when teachers arrived for duty. This whole week should be used for proper orientation and training of teachers, mopping and ramping up all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of pupils.

A cleaner sanitises desks at Khauhelo Junior primary School in Naledi, Soweto. File photo: Photo Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency ANA)

“The date on which all learners have to report back to school is the 8 June 2020. We have,  however, received reports that indicate that some learners in boarding schools have already arrived. We urge the schools to continue with orientation of the learners in terms of the health and safety procedures that should be in place.

The department held meetings with the associations representing independent schools on Saturday and Sunday, and “it was agreed on how they should proceed regarding the reopening of their schools”, the statement said.

– ANA, editing by Jacques Keet