Grade 1 teacher takes the temperature of her students before they enter the class as school officially starts for 2021. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
Grade 1 teacher takes the temperature of her students before they enter the class as school officially starts for 2021. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Public schools welcome back learners for 2021

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Feb 15, 2021

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Durban - It’s all systems go as the majority of South African public schools begin the 2021 academic year with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) emphasising that the health and safety of teachers, staff and learners remains at the top of their priority list.

Education minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday during a briefing on the state of readiness for schools that the DBE had been monitoring the provinces on a regular basis to ensure that they had systems in place to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will continue to maintain the delicate balance between health and safety in schools on the one hand, while on the other, we will deal with the curriculum gaps identified during the 2020 academic year.

“Senior managers in the sector, under the leadership of the Director-General, have been working very hard to strengthen the already existing plans for 2021.”

Motshekga said the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) was not an issue across all provinces, and added that the department was meeting key stakeholders on a regular basis to discuss a variety of matters affecting the sector.

“The regular meetings with national school governing body associations, principals’ associations, teacher unions, associations for learners with special needs, and formations for independent schools have been valuable.”

The department had started phasing-in the reopening of schools for the year 2021 since last month with school management teams returning on January 25 and teachers on February 1.

The Western Cape and North West departments of education are looking forward to welcoming its learners back to school on Monday.

“Our staff have been back at school for much longer than is usual for the beginning of the school year, so they have had extra time to prepare for the arrival of learners and put plans in place to cope with any further disruptions to schools. I would like to thank them for the positive and productive manner in which they have come back to school, and wish them the very best for the year.

“The safety of our staff and learners remains our priority as we start the school year. The same safety protocols that were implemented last year will remain in place this year, because our data has shown that these protocols work well to stop the spread of the virus,” said Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

All 1 583 schools in the North West are prepared to receive learners with screeners readily available as well as masks and sanitisers in place.

“The department has plans in place to recover lost teaching and learning since January. These plans include extra classes, dial-a-tutor programme, radio lessons and as well as special camps with all necessary Covid-19 protocols in place.

“Since the learning losses vary from school-to-school and class-to-class, each school will develop the subject recovery plans informed by the provincial subject improvement plans. Textbooks have been ordered and delivered to all schools that made requests,” said North West Education MEC Mmaphefo Matsemela.

Meanwhile, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) has welcomed the return of learners for the 2021 academic year and noted that, unlike previous academic years which began in January,the 2021 year had to be delayed to February to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

“The steady decline in the rate of Covid-19 infections has given SADTU confidence that schools may be ready to open their doors to learners to a certain extent. The latest school readiness survey, completed by school principals from all five teacher unions to ascertain readiness levels for schools to open, has shown improved levels as compared to the first survey that was done in January,” the teacher union said.

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