Back to school: Angie Motshekga 'anxious' about her grandkids, but 'I have to accept it'

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga
Sydney Seshibedi, Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga admitted she is "anxious" about her grandchildren's return to school.
  • Grade 6 and 11 pupils returned to school on Monday after 105 days at home.
  • Motshekga will visit several schools in Midrand to monitor the readmission of pupils.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has admitted that she is "anxious" about her grandchildren's return to school, but says she has to accept it.

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Motshekga was interviewed by eNCA morning anchor Jane Dutton about the department's readiness to receive pupils in Grades 6 and 11 following a months-long lockdown.

Dutton asked about the minister's own anxiety.

A visibly annoyed Motshekga replied: "What does it matter? It's personal. Yes, I have a grandson from a late son who is going to Pretoria Boys' [High School] today. I feel quite anxious. It's a boarding school, but I have to accept that he has to go to school.

"I have lots of family and grandchildren, some who have already gone back last week. But it's not about me or my emotions.

"We understand that it's an emotionally taxing period and that it's stressful. Parents are understandably anxious about their children, but there is no pressure to send your kids to school."

Motshekga said there were other opportunities, such as homeschooling, that parents could use.

"We are out today to do the best we can to ensure that we can provide the best necessary support to learners while also trying to gain back some of the ground we lost because of the coronavirus."

Motshekga said the department would assist parents with homeschooling options to ensure their children keep up with the curriculum and don't miss out on the remainder of the school year.

On Sunday, Motshekga said the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) convened last Thursday and considered a number of variables, including the rising community infections across the country and the risk in dealing with the return of more grades, News24 reported.

"This is what made CEM...consider staggering the returning grades, which were planned to return on [Monday] and 3 August. Firstly, CEM agreed that only Grades R, 6 and 11 will return to school tomorrow (Monday)," said Motshekga.

The minister said there would also be a reprieve for provinces which were not ready for little ones in Grade R.

"CEM also noted that provinces may be at different levels of readiness for the return of Grade R learners. Therefore, CEM agreed that those provinces that are not ready to receive Grade R on [Monday] must provide strategic and realisable plans for ensuring the reincorporation of Grade R learners to schools within, but not later than, the end of July."

Motshekga will visit several schools in Midrand on Monday to monitor the readmission of pupils.

Meanwhile, children were lining up outside the main entrance to their primary school in Pretoria East, waiting to be sanitized and screened as many parents reluctantly sent them on their way.

Several parents told News24 they were nervous, much like the minister, and worried about letting their children return to school amidst the the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Grade 6 and 11 learners returned to school for the first time since schools closed in March as part of government's hard lockdown aimed at flattening the curve.

Grade 7 and matric pupils were the first to go back to school on 8 June. 

One parent, who did not want to be named told News24 she was very nervous about her child, who is in grade 6, returning to school. 

Another parent, whose child is also in grade 6, said she was worried but hopeful.

"The school looks prepared it’s ready. I am a bit nervous but at the same time they need to learn," she told News24.

Speaking about how her child felt about returning to school, she said he was excited to see his friends and teachers but that he had been skeptical about returning during the pandemic. 

"With the entire lockdown he didn’t want to go outside."

One parent said if it were up to her, she would have allowed her child to stay at home longer. 

She said she was extremely reluctant to see her child return to school and that she worried about her health. 

All learners donned masks and were made to line up outside of the school's main entrance, being allowed in one at a time for screening and sanitisation.

 - Compiled by Riaan Grobler and Alex Mitchely

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