Briefing Parliament’s basic education portfolio committee, Mweli also said a conducive environment would be created to ensure pupils wrote examinations.
This would involve the provincial joint operations centre, which involves the police, intelligence services and his department.
The storage of writing material for examinations has been arranged and the police would escort question papers during their transit from the storage centres to schools, he said.
Mweli was leading a departmental delegation to brief the committee on the final examinations for 2017 matriculants.
He, however, said a total of 26 high schools and 52 primary schools were affected by the shutdown in Vuwani.
The area has been under lockdown after protests erupted as matriculants were due to write their preliminary examinations last week.
There are now fears that the protests could spread to other areas such as Malamulele.
Mweli said meetings have been planned by the department’s circuit managers with principals and teachers as well as stakeholders. “There are meetings virtually every day and representatives of the department, provincially and from district level, have indicated to us that since Friday, there has been a glimpse of hope in that a shutdown could be lifted but it has not happened,” he said.
The ANC’s Dalton Khosa noted with concern that the protests were not related to education, yet posed a challenge.
“Time has been lost even if it is one day or one period of 35 minutes,” Khosa said.
The DA’s Nomsa Marchesi lashed out at the department for being without a contingency plan despite the Human Rights Commission having told it to make an arrangement.
“There is no contingency plan in place. It is completely unacceptable,” she said.
Although acting committee chairperson Nthibane Mokoto said she could not stop parliamentarians from holding the department accountable, she asked them to “provide guidance to the department”.
This was rejected by Marchersi’s colleague Sonja Boshoff.
“They knew the possibility exists it (protest) could flare up again. With due respect, we cannot allow it,” Boshoff said. The ANC’s Derick Mnguni said the matter had been spoken about last year.
“We asked questions: are there any plans that we can have if something of this nature happens? Here again it happens.”
Mnguni charged that “schools are used as pawns to have these communities to have their riots”.