South Africa’s education system is potentially one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 and the phased national lockdown, as it has severely impacted the capacity for teachers and learners to interact.
While some schools have leaned on digital education platforms during this time, and others more innovative workarounds, the vast majority of institutions are wanting to re-open as quickly as possible.
Some schools, specifically independent and private ones, are reportedly jumping the gun on the advised 1st June re-opening date outlined by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
While there is a dire need to get through the year’s required curriculum, doing so prematurely puts everyone at the school at risk, according to minister Angie Motshekga.
“The premature re-opening of schools is not permitted as the department is still finalising COVID-19 school compliance protocols. Uniform standards will be applicable in schools as part of the measures put in place to protect learners and teachers, reduce infection and save the academic year,” the DBE explained.
Citing regulations that were published on 29th April, in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002), the Department says education services are listed under Alert Level 4 Table 1.Q. This means educations services are only permitted on a date and schedule yet to be announced, in order to direct when schools may re-open.
Currently the proposed dates for schools allow office-based workers to return on 4th May (earlier this week), with school management on 11th May, teachers on 18th May and re-opening on 1st June.
“I therefore urge schools to familiarise themselves with all the regulations and directives to ensure compliance. In the meantime, schools must consult with the Department of Health and Department of Employment and Labour, in anticipation of the determination by the Minister. I am emphasising that until this determination is made schools must remain closed,” said DBE director general, Hubert Mathanzima Mweli.
With level 4 of the national lockdown bringing with it confusion for many South Africans as to what is and is not permitted, for schools it is imperative that the proposed dates are adhered to.