Joburg private school makes about-turn with roster, postpones scheduled camps

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Helpmekaar Kollege in Johannesburg has changed its original plan to have its 1 200 pupils return to school on Monday.
Helpmekaar Kollege in Johannesburg has changed its original plan to have its 1 200 pupils return to school on Monday.
  • Helpmekaar Kollege in Johannesburg has changed its plan to have its 1 200 pupils return to school on Monday.
  • A camp for Grade 8 pupils and a scheduled choir camp have also been postponed.
  • Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is expected to visit the school on Monday.

Johannesburg private school Helpmekaar Kollege has made an about-turn on its return-to-school schedules and planned activities for the year.

Earlier, the school had sent out a circular to parents stating that all of its 1 200 pupils were set to return to school on Monday. In addition, a concert for Grade 8 pupils had been planned for Friday, 22 January, and a choir camp for Saturday and Sunday, 23 and 24 January.

In the newsletter, senior deputy principal JP van der Merwe said strict Covid-19 protocols will be adhered to and children with symptoms should stay home. Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the school said it had a whole calendar of events planned.

Last week, Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule announced that schools nationally would reopen on 15 February because the country is still in the grips of the second wave of Covid-19.

Schools were due to open on 27 January. Some independent schools opened last week, but the majority are due to reopen on Monday.

School 'reconsiders'

In an amended notice, Helpmekaar – or Helpies, as it is affectionately known among its pupils and staff – said it had decided to teach its pupils online from Wednesday, 20 January, according to its daily timetable (07:30 to 14:00). "We want to be sensible in this peak period of Covid ahead and limiting people's risks," the school announced under the heading, "Helpies reconsiders", citing "the latest developments", among other considerations.

It stated that, while Grades 9, 10 and 11 pupils would attend the school on Monday and Tuesday, adhering to rigorous Covid-19 protocols, all learning would be presented online from Wednesday. In addition, all planned camps and activities have been postponed until further notice.

On Sunday, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced that he would visit Helpmekaar Kollege on Monday.

Lesufi's visit is to "establish reasons for the college's action as this would be in contravention of the pronouncement by the Department of Basic Education to postpone the opening of schools from 27 January to 15 February 2021 due to concerns over the increasing Covid-19 infections in the province," department spokesperson Steve Mabona said.

'We can't instruct them'

Last week, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's advisor, Mzwandile Matthews, said they had consulted with independent school bodies on the decision to postpone the opening. "The determination that was made at our consultation from both Naisa [National Alliance of Independent Schools] and Isasa [Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa] was that they persuade the schools that have already opened to consider following the new protocols.

"They will have not yet reopened and will be persuaded to consider delaying and following the reopening protocols. Unfortunately we can't instruct them. We hope they will consider closing and reopening as stated…" Matthews said.

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