About 95 percent of schools around South Africa are ready to re-open under the coronavirus (Covid-19) level 3 lockdown regulations, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday.
“We can now say with confidence that about 95 percent of our schools have been ably provided with the Covid-19-related imperatives. The sector, with the assistance of our partners, will strive to deal with the remaining five percent to ensure that the unfettered rights to health, safety, and basic education for all South African children are protected,” she said in a statement.
The golden rule was that no school would resume if not ready to do so. For the remaining about five percent of pupils, alternative measures had been developed by different districts, such as temporarily using neighbouring schools, using under utilised spaces in boarding schools, and putting other pupils in camps.
Because some of the alternatives needed consultations with parents, provinces would engage parents and follow the appropriate protocols to get parental concessions. “All of this we agreed should be finalised during the course of the week and recovery programmes be implemented,” Motshekga said.
The directions in terms of the regulations under the Disaster Management Act regarding the re-opening of schools and measures to address, prevent, and combat the spread of Covid-19 in the basic education sector had been published. The directions, as amended on June 1, catered for deviations to the extent necessary, to be applicable to small schools, special schools, and independent and private schools. They also catered for instances where parents may choose to keep their children at home.
“We have solicited the support and assistance of the South African National Defence Force, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), and Mvula Trust to collaborate with the department, provinces, and Rand Water to accelerate the provision of water and sanitation in outstanding schools,” she said.
The department was also cooperating with the transport department to ensure that pupil transport met the health, safety, and social distancing measures and requirements. This would include scholar transport for those with special education needs. Work with the health and social development departments was also continuing to ensure that health and psycho-social needs of school communities were met.
As engagements continued, the directions would be strengthened as necessary. Other than affirming health, safety, and physical distancing measures and requirements, the directions upheld the phased reopening of public and independent schools, starting with grades 7 and 12; followed by a cluster of grades on July 6; and the last cluster of grades reopening on August 3.
“We are in the process of revising the 2020 school calendar year to accommodate the peculiarities brought by the novel Covid-19 pandemic. We have and will continue to respond to the ‘new normal’ by developing and implementing plans, which include regular and strict internal and external monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.”
The problems related to co-morbidities among teachers were being attended to and an agreement with organised labour was about to be completed. Standard operating procedures would be circulated among schools to ensure that schools were able to manage identified infections among teachers, pupils, and support staff, Motshekga said.
-ANA, editing by Jacques Keet