Education Department delays announcement on reopening of schools

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga says one more week is needed before a decision on the reopening of schools can be announced.

Education Department delays announcement on reopening of schools

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said one more week is needed before the department can consider the progress made towards the reopening of schools. 

Motshekga said the department will reconvene on Monday 18 May to consider the progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness. 

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT DELAYS MEETING 

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it would hold a media briefing on Thursday 14 May, however, on the day made a u-turn and said Motskekga has to convene a “special” meeting of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) to consider the progress made towards the reopening of schools. 

According to the department, the purpose of the 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 of schools.

In a meeting held on Monday 11 May, 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.

“We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise outstanding. So on Monday [18 May] we will reconvene to consider the 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.

Motshekga said the delays in the deliverables were attributed to challenges with the supplier of PPEs which resulted in the cancellation of contracts. 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.

On Wednesday 13 May, Ramaphosa addressed the nation saying that most of South Africa would hopefully be under Level 3 of lockdown by the end of May.

REOPENING OF SCHOOLS BEING CAREFULLY THOUGHT OUT 

The Director-General of the Department of Basic Education Mathanzima Mweli said that the implementation of the basic education sector 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. Nobody has experience in managing a crisis of this magnitude so we follow expert advice on why we need to be extremely careful how we proceed in every step,” he said.

He said the basic education sector plan was based on three factors;

  • Saving lives remain the overriding consideration;
  • Saving the academic year is crucial; and 
  • 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.

The minister 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.

WHEN SHOULD PUBLIC SCHOOLS REOPEN? 

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane ran a poll on Twitter asking the question: “When should public schools reopen?” 

Interestingly enough, 15.1% said that schools should reopen on 1 June. 10.9% said schools should reopen under Level 2 of lockdown. 5.1% said under Level 3 of lockdown and 68.9% said “when it’s safe for kids,” which points to the fact that many are focused on the wellbeing of children first and a curriculum second.  

“Also consider that the average age of a teacher in South Africa is 43 (32% are over 50) and the average age of a Principal is 51 (6% are over 60). How many of our teachers live with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other identified co-morbidities,” said Maimane. 

“Lastly consider the support staff that work at schools. Drivers, cleaners, ground staff, security, administration and if we can safely have the full school ecosystem in place from 7:00 -17:00 every day during the lockdown,” he added. 

Source : The South African More