Education department says it is all systems go ahead of schools reopening

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
  • The Department of Basic Education said reports from its provincial departments indicated schools were on track to reopen on Monday. 
  • Some schools could not reopen on 25 January due to various challenges. 
  • The department said platooning would once again be in place when they reopen.

The Department of Basic Education says it is all systems go for schools reopening on Monday - and health and safety will be priority as the fight against Covid-19 transmissions continues.

It said 24 026 schools reopened on 25 January to prepare for the return of pupils. 

At least 67 schools could not reopen due to various reasons, ranging from being damaged by storms and flooding to challenges with accessing roads, the department added.

Excluding Limpopo and the Western Cape, 291 257 teachers returned to work on 1 February and 295 608 had returned between 8 until 12 February.

"We will continue to maintain the delicate balance between health and safety in schools on the one hand, while on the other, we deal with the curriculum gaps, identified during the 2020 academic year.

"Senior managers in the sector, under the leadership of the director-general, have been working very hard to strengthen the already existing plans for 2021," Education Minister Angie Motshekga said during a briefing on the state of readiness in Pretoria on Sunday afternoon.

According to the department, the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) was not an issue across all provinces. 

READ |School reopening: A rundown of some of the headaches as 15 February looms

It said pupils would return at the same time and schools indicated they would be using differentiated timetables.

Motshekga added gazetted directions emphasised schools should adhere to health and safety protocols to save lives, saying directives have been distributed to schools for implementation.

The department's director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, said provincial departments had adequate masks for pupils, teachers and support staff.

He added provinces had measures in place to ensure schools did not run out of Covid-19 essentials.

In the Eastern Cape, the department had authorised schools to procure PPE from the savings made from budgets last years.

Gauteng on the other hand, had advertised a tender for PPE, which would ensure there was bulk purchases that would last for a while.

At least 17 473 teachers and 4 937 pupils, excluding those from Eastern Cape, have tested positive since March 2020, the department said.

Mweli added 1 169 teachers and 19 pupils have died.  

Motshekga said the department was continuously meeting with stakeholders and would also be using results from a survey conducted by teacher unions. 

The National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa as well as four others, including the South African Democratic Teachers' Union, conducted a survey which focused on, among others, health and safety, admissions and dropouts and provision of PPE at schools.  

The survey would be used to work on identified gaps, she added.

"We remain committed in meeting and consulting with stakeholders in guiding and leading the sector as we navigate our way through these difficult times."

Motshekga said 290 000 young people were employed on a contract basis as education assistants and general school assistants as part of the Basic Education Employment Initiative.

The assistants were employed as part of the sector's response to President Cyril Ramaphosa's Fiscal Stimulus Package which was announced in April 2020.

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