Teachers, school staff will be on standby during 'break', says education dept

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  • The Department of Basic Education says the four-week break will afford it an opportunity to prepare for the return of more grades later in August.
  • Minister Angie Motshekga says schools will make arrangements for teaching and learning to continue while pupils are at home. 
  • The national school nutrition programme will continue to operate. 

Teachers and non-teaching staff will remain on duty at home while schools are closed for four weeks, but should avail themselves when necessary, the Department of Basic Education has said.

The department said this following an announcement of the closure of schools by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday.

Public schools will close from 27 July to 24 August as the country sees a rise in Covid-19 infections. 

Grade 12s will take a break for a week from 27 to 31 July and Grade 7s for two weeks, returning on 10 August.

"It is important to bear in mind that the latest opinions of the Ministerial Advisory Committee as well as medical and science experts is that learners are better at school than in communities and homes where the infections are actually taking place," Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in a statement following the president's address.

READ | The SIU has been let loose on Covid-19 corruption

She added while the lockdown was gradually being lifted, the basic education system needed to also be afforded the opportunity and space to gradually settle in to deal with the new normal of operating under Covid-19 in line with the risk-adjusted differentiated approach in reopening schools. 

The decision to shut schools was taken following a series of consultations by Motshekga with more than 60 organisations within the education sector, the president said during his address. 

Among those involved in the consultations were independent schools associations, school governing body associations and the country's five teacher unions. 

On duty

"During the break, teachers and non-teaching staff will be on duty and will remain at home but should avail themselves when necessary. The school principal, school management team and head of the department will determine this." 

Last week, the country's biggest teachers' union, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), said schools should close amid the Covid-19 peak

READ | Ramaphosa vows 'very severe' consequences for theft of Covid-19 relief funds

The union, along with others, argued evidence on the ground showed there was no effective teaching and learning at schools during the current situation the country faces due to the pandemic. 

Motshekga said the break would allow schools to prepare for the return of more grades later in August. She also urged school communities to continue with their work during the break. 

"Schools must make arrangements with parents for learners to get work or materials for them to remain fully engaged during the break. Learners should also be given work as they collect food or when they leave on 24 July 2020."

The national school nutrition programme would also continue operating during the break. 

Residents have also been asked to protect schools from vandalism and theft as was the case when they closed in March.

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