All systems go for 2021 academic year, says Motshekga

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
  • The Department of Basic Education says schools will reopen on 27 January 2021 for pupils.
  • It says it is monitoring the state of provinces on a weekly basis to ensure there are systems in place to cope under the pandemic, even in the new year.
  • Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the department will maintain a balance of health and safety in schools to ensure gaps were filled for the curriculum recovery.

It is all systems go for the reopening of schools in 2021, the Department of Basic Education said on Thursday.

Education Minister Angie Motshekga said during a media briefing all provinces had finalised admission processes and would be monitored on a weekly basis to ensure there were systems in place to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic when schools reopen. 

Schools are expected to reopen on 25 January 2021 for teachers and 27 January for pupils.  

Motshekga said the department would maintain the delicate balance of health and safety in schools to ensure gaps were filled for the curriculum recovery. 

The department said it was also working with countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, and Rwanda as well as others from other continents to draw on lessons that had been learnt during the pandemic. 

Its chief director for National Assessment and Public Examinations, Dr Rufus Poliah, said 715 candidates tested positive for Covid-19 but continued to write their exams. 

He added Eastern Cape had the highest number with 542 candidates who tested positive. 

"But I can assure the South African nation that all these learners were accommodated. They wrote their examinations in isolation," Poliah said. 

Motshekga said the 2021 school readiness monitoring would focus on health and safety; school admissions; dropouts and the provisions of teachers. 

The 2020 academic year officially ended on 15 December and reports were issued to pupils. 

Motshekga stressed that schools were not allowed, by law, to withhold reports for any reason. 

The minister said the department continued to receive complaints from parents who said their children were not being issued with reports. 

She added 1 493 teachers and education staffers died during the year, some as a result of Covid-19. 

Youth recruited

Meanwhile, the department announced it would be receiving 300 000 young employees, as part of the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI), to assist at schools in the new year.

It said the BEEI sought to address Covid-19 academic disruptions as well as addressing some of the lingering systemic challenges. The assistants will support teachers and pupils. 

Motshekga said the 300 000 employment opportunities were targeted at young people to strengthen capacity in schools at least until the end of March 2021.

She added more than 65% of the recruits were captured and the month of December and January would be used for training and induction. They will work in areas that include ICTs, reading, mathematics, robotics and coding. 

ALSO READ | Matric leaks: Umalusi to determine integrity of exams in February – Motshekga

The department said its three-year recovering annual teaching plans (ATP) in all grades would seek to make up for the learning losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic while building on foundational content required for the next grade.  

"The multi-year recovery plan also ensures that the impact of further learning losses are minimised. The recovery ATPs focus mainly on the core and fundamental content knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required in each grade and subject to ensure deep learning and content mastery as opposed to superficial learning." 

Motshekga said the 2022 school calendar had already been published, with a staggered return being proposed where coastal and inland provinces would return on different dates.

For 2021, pupils from coastal and inland provinces will reopen on the same date but stakeholders asked for a staggered return for 2022.

She said the proposed calendar was available on the department's website as well as its social media platforms.

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