Ramaphosa declares schools will shut for 4 weeks - but Grade 12s get 1 week's break

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Pupils being screened at Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School.
Pupils being screened at Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School.
GPG Media
  • Schools will close from 27 July to 24 August. 
  • The National School Nutrition Programme will remain operational. 
  • The academic year will be extended beyond 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday. 

A week after teachers' unions called for schools to close amid the upcoming peak in Covid-19 infections in South Africa, Cabinet has decided to shut all public schools for four weeks - but there are exceptions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday, while addressing the nation, that public schools would close from 27 July to 24 August. 

Grade 12s will, however, only take a week's break and return on 3 August.

Grades 7s will get a two-week break, returning on 10 August.

"Specific arrangements will be made for different categories of special schools. As a result of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the current academic year will be extended beyond the end of 2020.

"The minister of basic education will provide details on the management of the remainder of the school year," said Ramaphosa. 

Ramaphosa said the decision was taken following engagement with the Department of Basic Education and more than 60 organisations representing parents, school governing bodies, principals, educators, independent schools and civil society organisations.

The National School Nutrition Programme will continue to operate during the closure, he added. 

Ramaphosa said he was aware the decision to close would disappoint some, but he pleaded for understanding. He added that the government believed it was important to ensure schools were not sites of transmissions as infections rise. 

The country's largest union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), announced last week that its national executive committee resolved that schools should close amid a peak in Covid-19 cases.

The same sentiment was also relayed by other unions, including the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and the National Teachers Union (Natu).

Among the top issues put forward by the unions, which resulted in the call for closure, was the evolution of the virus - it has affected teaching and learning at schools.

READ | Covid-19: Angie Motshekga meets Cabinet as unions propose matrics return to school on 17 August

The unions also posed concerns over the adherence to the standard operating procedures at schools, arguing that some were not closing in time when educators or pupils tested positive.

In a series of consultations with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the five unions proposed that schools halt for at least until the end of August.

The teachers' unions also proposed to the department that there be a prioritisation of different modes of teaching to assist pupils while they were at home. This would include radio and television teaching and learning. 

The debate on schools has been a hot topic since the minister announced the return of Grade 7s and 12s from 1 June, which was further moved to 8 June.

Among the groups that had been against the reopening is Mmusi Maimane's One South Africa Movement (OSAM), which has been back and forth to court - unsuccessfully.

The civic group recently demonstrated outside schools as well as the department's head offices in Pretoria.

OSAM also proposed the curriculum be adjusted to make up for lost time after the peak.

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