President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed calls for the closure of schools, announcing that all public schools will take a break for four weeks.
Ramaphosa made the announcement during an address to the nation on Thursday 23 July 2020.
The President updated the country on developments around South Africa’s strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19.
This follows meetings this week of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and Cabinet regarding the spread of COVID-19 and the measures which must be taken to control the spread of the virus.
“Cabinet has decided today that all public schools should take a break for the next four weeks,” Ramaphosa said.
“This means schools will be closed from 27 July and will reopen on 24 August.”
There are some exceptions to this, however, with different return dates for Grade 12 and Grade 7 learners.
These grades will return to school on the following dates:
- Grade 12 – 3 August
- Grade 7 – 10 August
Ramaphosa added that the current academic year will be extended beyond the end of 2020.
At his previous address to the nation on lockdown regulation changes earlier this month, Ramaphosa announced a ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol with immediate effect, as well as the imposition of a curfew.
The President did not address this ban or the ban on the sale of tobacco products, which is the subject of a number of court actions.
Fifth-highest number of cases in the world
Ramaphosa noted that South Africa now has the fifth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world.
More than 130,000 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed since the president’s last official address to the nation, with the total number of cases in the country now sitting at 408,052.
Speaking about the closure of schools, Ramaphosa said that it was important to balance the education of young people with the protection of learners from COVID-19.
“Since the beginning of May we have been undertaking a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions,” Ramaphosa said.
“In approaching the opening of schools, we have always said the health and wellbeing of learners and educators are critical.”
“A major and lasting disruption would have a devastating impact on the prospects of an entire generation of young people,” he said. “This has been one of our considerations.”
Advisory Committee frustrated
A number of scientists within the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) are frustrated with the government’s lack of transparency over the rationale behind its lockdown rules.
The MAC is consulted on the spread of COVID-19 and potential measures which can be taken to protect South Africans from the virus, and it is chaired by Professor Salim Abdool Karim.
MAC member and Wits Professor Francois Venter previously said the government often cited scientists as justification for decisions it has implemented during the lockdown, but he was not aware who these scientists were.
“Government keeps saying scientists are making these decisions, and that is part of our frustration within the MAC,” he said.
“It would be good to know who these scientists are and what their reasoning is so we can interrogate it and understand it.”
“This whole process has been mysterious,” Venter added.