All public school teachers have to return to class  on 1 June, along with grades 7 and 12 pupils, because those teaching others grades will be needed to make up the shortfall created by splitting classes into smaller groups, the minister of basic education said on Tuesday.

“Teachers are expected back. We are going to need their services because of the split classes we are going to have,” Motshekga told a media briefing, referring to the decision to restrict the number of pupils per class.

“We will start with grades 7 and 12 and small schools. The other grades will follow in due course,” the minister said, adding that “independent and public ordinary schools will open even in the metropolitan areas”.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS

Motshekga assured parents that school buildings would be sanitised daily and pupils would be screened daily to prevent Covid-19 spreading at schools.

“We will screen your child on a daily basis,” she said, adding that parents would be asked to declare to schools all their children’s underlying health issues, such as asthma.

She said the education department could not obligate parents who “still feel anxious” to send their children back to school, but the parents would be asked to make formal arrangements to home school their children.

“We have to deal with the problems of every child, case by case,” she said, but stressed that she was not prepared to delay the school return date longer because some parents did not feel comfortable sending their children back to class.

An empty classroom is seen in a closed primary school.  File picture: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

With grades 7 and 12 pupils due to return to school at the beginning of June, two and a half months after the national government closed all schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic on 18 March, Motshekga has stressed schools are reopening in close cooperation with the health department.

She said the medical advice was that the virus remained active on surfaces for eight hours. Schools will have been cleaned before they reopen and every classroom will be cleaned daily once they reopen. It would be up to provincial guidelines whether this is done by health officials or outside contractors.

Motshekga said the department was furthermore using researchers who were engaged for other projects that have been placed on hold as a result of the pandemic, to monitor the measures other countries have adopted when reopening schools to determine best practice.

Similarly, funding for school non-essential and extra-mural school activities was being redirected to pay for health precautions at schools. There would strictly be no school sport.

“Schools must be aware that all curriculum enrichment programmes will be put on hold until further notice,” she said.

Picture: Supplied

“Let me make this clear; school sports will not be permitted as they will increase the chances of infection and undermine our efforts of containing the coronavirus. When class is dismissed, learners must go home.”