Government is likely to make a decision today regarding the closure of schools that will attempt to satisfy those both for and against the closure of schools, according to a report by the City Press.
Department of Basic Education (DBE) minister Angie Motshekga has been in discussions with various stakeholders this week regarding whether schools should remain open.
According to the report, most unions contended with Motshekga on Friday that since South Africa has one of the highest rates of infection in the world, school closure discussions are urgent.
SADTU general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said that the call to shut down schools is about saving lives.
“We cannot, as a developing country, adopt the Western countries’ approach in building community immunity by sacrificing lives. We must protect the public by suppressing transmission,” said Maluleke.
Professional Educators’ Union president Johannes Motona agreed that schools needed to close.
“More and more cases are being reported, and this makes the school environment not conducive for quality teaching and learning because there is a lot of anxiety for teachers and pupils,” said Motona.
In response, Motshekga reportedly asked unions whether teachers should expect to be paid while not working.
A DBE representative said that this could set a bad precedent for the future.
“This could just demoralise the whole public service,” said the representative.
On 11 June, Motshekga published the amended school calendar for 2020.
The four school terms for 2020 are gazetted as follows:
- Term 1: 15 January – 18 March
- Term 2: 8 June – 7 August
- Term 3: 12 August – 23 September
- Term 4: 5 October – 15 December
This means that between Term 2 and Term 3 there will only be a single day’s holiday, as Monday 10 August is a public holiday and all but one of the other days between these two terms fall on weekends.
However, to make up for this, Term 3 will only comprise seven weeks.
Earlier this month, however, the government postponed the return dates of some grades.
It had been gazetted that Grade R, 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, and 11 learners would all return to school on 6 July.
However, only Grade R, 6, and 11 learners returned on this date.
“We will adjust the reopening phases based on the risk-adjusted strategy, which is a considered attempt to balance our approach to school reopening taking into account all factors that affect the work we do,” said DBE minister Angie Motshekga.
She said the DBE has come to this decision by observing the rising numbers of community COVID-19 transmissions throughout the country.
“We recognised that schools are based in communities and learners live in the same affected communities and therefore a careful balancing act must be maintained,” said Motshekga.
Big delays to original reopening
The DBE was criticised earlier this year for the significant delays in its strategy to return learners to school.
Following the closure of schools on 18 March, Grade 7 and 12 learners were set to return to school on 1 June.
However, this date was postponed by a week because schools had not been prepared for these learners’ return.
According to Godwin Khosa of the National Education Collaboration (NEC) Trust, learner PPEs were not widely available by 1 June.
Khosa said that many of the issues regarding PPE were on the supplier side.
“These included shortages of stock – particularly in the cloth mask market – while some of the appointed suppliers did not have adequate stock themselves or the ability to produce them,” said Khosa.
“Some suppliers misrepresented their ability to supply this PPE,” Khosa added.