Provincial education departments ask for more time to report on readiness to reopen schools

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga will convene a special meeting of the Council of Education Ministers on Monday to consider progress made towards the reopening of schools.

Motshekga was scheduled to chair a briefing on the state of readiness for the reopening of schools on Thursday, but this has been postponed. 

According to basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, the purpose of Monday's meeting will be to consider the work done by provinces this week, including taking deliveries of the Covid-19 essentials required as preconditions for the reopening.

In a meeting held this past Monday, provinces reported that they were at various stages of readiness and they requested more time as they waited for deliveries of personal protection equipment from the supplier. 

Also read: SA beyond Covid-19: How it will shape the future, according to scientists, economists and political minds

"We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise outstanding [issues]. So, on Monday, we will reconvene to consider progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness. A lot of work has happened and we are happy with the progress reported in the last meeting but we need confirmation of deliveries that provinces were waiting for," said Motshekga. 

She added that the delays in the deliverables were attributed to challenges with the supplier of personal protection equipment (PPE), which resulted in the cancellation of contracts.

New suppliers to deliver PPEs

Various provinces had to find new suppliers to deliver the material this week.

"In the meeting on Monday we will receive a full report which we can then share with the public. We will also use the meeting to table President Cyril Ramaphosa's address, which is also important for our planning purposes," she said. 

In his address to the nation on Wednesday night, Ramaphosa said: "We will immediately begin a process of consultation with the relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by end of May, most of the country be placed on alert Level 3, but those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on Level 4."

Read: Opening of schools too soon is not permitted, warns education department

The director general of the Department of Basic Education, Mathanzima Mweli, said that the implementation of the basic education sector's risk-based differentiated approach in reopening schools would be assisted by the president's address.

"We will convene a special meeting of the heads of education departments from all provinces and the minister will meet with MECs on Monday to discuss the progress made. Thereafter, we will announce to the public.

No experience in managing such a crisis

"Nobody has experience in managing a crisis of this magnitude so we follow expert advice that's why we need to be extremely careful how we proceed in every step," Mweli said. 

He added the basic education sector plan was based on three factors:

  • Saving lives remain the overriding consideration;
  • Saving the academic year is crucial;
  • Risk assessment and mitigation as well as monitoring and evaluation are important safeguards of the plan. 

"The minister will address a media briefing after receiving full reports from all provinces on the readiness to open schools. We appeal for patience as we work to find the best way forward under the circumstances," he said. 

Motshekga will address a media briefing on Monday after the meeting of the Council of Education Ministers. The exact time will be confirmed in due course, Mhlanga said.

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