Education department needs more time, postpones ‘final’ briefing
The briefing, which was due to take place on Thursday morning, has been pushed back by several hours.
The Department of Education, which was due to present its final solution to the tense schooling debate on Thursday morning, has postponed its briefing.
The latest postponement comes just three days after the department, headed by Minister Angie Motshekga, snubbed a briefing on Monday afternoon, citing the need for ‘further consultation’ with the National Command Council (NCC).
A parliamentary briefing on Thursday morning, involving the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, issued a presentation of tentative proposals concerning the 2020 calendar and a ‘phased’ approach to the reopening of schools.
When will pupils go back to school?
This presentation, delivered by the Director-General of Basic Education, Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, was met with fierce condemnation. Although stressing the point that any proposals would need to be finalised by Motshekga, Mweli’s decision to release draft documents to the public has raised some serious red flags.
In his presentation, Mweli noted the following Grade 7 and 12 calendar proposal for consideration:
- Term 2 start for pupils: 6 May
- Term 2 end for pupils: 26 July
- Term 3 start for pupils: 3 August
- Term 3 end for pupils: 23 September
- Term 4 start for pupils: 28 September
- Term 4 end for pupils: 9 December
Mweli’s presentation also detailed a ‘phased-in’ approach, which would see pupils in different grades returning to school at different times, as follows:
- 6 May: Grades 12 and 7
- 20 May: Grades 11 and 6
- 3 June: Grades 10 and 5
- 17 June: Grades 9 and 4
- 1 July: Grades 8 and 3
- 8 July: Grades 2 and 1
- 15 July: Grade R
Early reopening of schools ‘a disaster’
Pupils, parents, teachers and unions lashed out at Mweli’s proposals, arguing that a premature return to school, as South Africa readies to reach its peak infection rate in September, would be courting disaster. Many parents took to social media to voice their frustrations, adding that they would not send their children to school until the peak infection rate had subsided.
Both the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape lambasted the department’s proposal.
Education department tires damage control
Following the fallout, Deputy Minister for the Department of Basic Education, Reginah Mhaule, was quick to respond to the widespread panic, arguing that the dates proposed in Mweli’s presentation were ‘far from finalised’.
Mhaule added that the proposed return date of 6 May was likely to be amended and finalised ahead of the departmental briefing.
‘Last leg in the process’
Motshekga, however, revealed that Mweli’s presentation was one of the ‘final’ draft proposals formed from a “series of consultative sessions with various stakeholders”. A statement issued by the department on Wednesday night read:
“The engagement with the portfolio committee was the last leg in the process.”
Motshekga, who was originally scheduled to deliver final details pertaining to the school programme at 10:00 on Thursday morning, will now only address the nation at 16:30. A statement issued by the department on Thursday morning announced:
“The media briefing scheduled for 10am will not take place as planned due to a Cabinet happening this morning. The time will be confirmed during the course of the day. We apologize for the inconvenience. Regards.”