New dates for the reopening of schools in South Africa announced

Department of Basic Education (DBE) Minister Angie Motshekga has confirmed that the reopening of schools will take place on 1 June. This will extend to public schools and private/independent schools, Motshekga said. I want to emphasize that as we were planning, as much as we were reporting on different times, schools will reopen on 1 June.

Motshekga said the reopening of schools will start with Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners, with other grades to be phased in overtime. She said the new school calendar will be gazetted shortly to reflect this starting date. The virus has forced us to re-engineer the basic education system,” said Motshekga. “We will work with provinces to make sure that no student is left behind. Motshekga said that teachers are set to return on 25 May, meaning they will have a week to prepare before the first learners arrive back at schools.

Motshekga said that there are two major concerns the department has been dealing with recently. The first is comorbidities, and Motshekga said the DBE is working with the Department of Health to issue guidelines regarding the management of these underlying challenges. We also urge parents to work closely with schools to ensure that learners with pre-existing illnesses are assisted,” said Motshekga. The second major issue has been ensuring that schools have access to water.

Motshekga said the DBE has also been working with the Department of Sanitation to ensure there is sufficient water available by the time learners arrive at school.

Original plans versus reality
The DBE previously outlined its tentative schedule for the return to schools as follows:

4 May – A limited number of departmental staff would return to DBE offices to begin preparations.

11 May – School management teams (SMTs) would return and begin preparations for teachers to return.

18 May – Teachers would return and prepare so that they could teach under lockdown conditions.

1 June – Grade 7 and Grade 12 students would return to schools.
Over time, and as schools became ready, more grades would be phased in.

However, delays to the procurement of personal protective equipment meant that the return of SMTs and teachers were delayed.

PPE issues
Motshekga previously attributed delays in PPE procurement exclusively to challenges with suppliers.

However, an Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDOE) letter sent to Eastern Cape schools suggests otherwise. The ECDOE said it had originally been told to place procurement orders with the National Treasury.

However, it was informed on 6 May that all protective equipment which had been procured by the National Treasury would instead be re-prioritised to the Department of Health. This resulted in it having to source its own personal protective equipment.

Presentation delays
Motshekga’s presentation on the reopening of schools follows several delays which evoked criticism from South African teachers and parents. The DBE originally told MyBroadband that Motshekga would provide an update on the way forward for schools on 14 May.

On this date, it published a new statement saying that it would address the public on 18 May. This date was then pushed forward to Tuesday at 16:00, before again being postponed until 18:00 today.

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