More than 95% of schools Covid-19 compliant - Angie Motshekga
Durban - More than 95% of schools across the country are Covid-19 compliant and are ready to open for teaching and learning on Monday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday.
Addressing a media briefing on the state of readiness of schools, Motshekga said that it was all systems go for grade 12s and 7s to return to school with the majority of schools having been given the necessary Personal Protection Equipment.
She said that those schools that were not compliant would not open but that plans are in place so that "no child is left behind".
"We can now say with confidence that about 95% of our schools have been ably provided with the Covid-19 related imperatives," Motshekga said.
"The sector, with the assistance of our partners, will strive to deal with the remaining 5% to ensure that the unfettered rights to health, safety and basic education for all South African children are protected. The golden rule is there will be no school that will resume if not ready to do so. For the remaining 5% or so learners, alternative measures have been developed by different districts such as temporarily using neighbouring schools, using under-utilised spaces in boarding schools and putting other learners in camps. Because some of the alternatives need consultations with parents, provinces will be engaging parents and following the appropriate protocols to get parental concessions. All of this we agreed should be finalised during the course of the week and recovery programs be implemented," she said.
According to figures presented on school readiness, out of 23 675 public schools across the country, 23 100 were "ready as facilities to receive learners" which represents 97.6% readiness to open on Monday.
The announcement comes after days of behind the scenes negotiations between the Department of Education, unions and various other role players.
Last week, teacher unions dug in the heels vowing not to open schools unless all schools were given the right personal protection equipment.
In a joint statement last week the unions said they wanted to meet with the minister and that schools cannot reopen until all the non-negotiables have been met.
The Department of Basic Education has proposed the phasing in of learners to return to school.
Schools across the country were meant to open for Grade 7s and Grade 12s last Monday but at the 11th hour the minister buckled under the pressure of unions and postponed the opening by a week.
Motshekga said that in the past week, schools had used the time to get schools ready for pupils, saying that schools, teachers and parents will have to respond to the "new normal which include regular and strict internal and external monitoring and evaluation mechanisms".
"This, includes the reconfiguration of Caps curriculum, the provision of timetabling options, the roll-out of the school nutrition programme," she said.
"We have institutionalised internal and external monitoring and evaluation; and we are providing detailed weekly reports to the Heads of Departments Committee, the Council of Education Ministers, and to our critical stakeholders, including teacher unions, national school governing bodies associations; and the sector-based stakeholders, including national associations representing independent schools, as well as special schools.
"Our external monitoring and evaluation is conducted by a consortium of researchers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust that also provide independent weekly reports on the state of readiness and compliance with the measures and requirements determined through the Directions and Regulations on Covid-19," she said.
Among the challenges noted by the minister were related to comorbidities among educators.
"An agreement with organised labour is about to be completed. Standard Operating Procedures will be circulated among schools to ensure that schools are able to manage identified infections among educators, learners, educators and support staff."
Motshekga said where practicably possible, learners from the “not-so-ready schools” will be moved to neighbouring schools that meet the health, safety and social distancing set measures and requirements.
"The teaching and learning programmes provided online will continue; and parents who are uneasy to send their children back to school, must follow the law to ensure that their children’s right to basic education is unhindered," she said.
At the weekend, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize also weighed in on the debate of reopening schools saying it was imperative that schools reopen as the Covid-19 pandemic would be with us for some time.
President Cyril Ramaphosa had indicated as well that the coronavirus would be around for the next 18 months to two years.
Mkhize said children would have to return to school.
"We are saying the pandemic is going to be with us for a long time. We can't abandon schooling and economic activity. We can see some children are doing e-learning, but the bulk of the children don't have an activity to be part of e-learning. This is a problem of us trying to walk together," said Mkhize.
The department has also set a programme for students to catch up when they go back. One of the measures would be to curtail sports and other extramural activities to focus on learning.
For Grade 12 students they would have to sit for their exams this year.
The department has also set a programme for students to catch up when they go back. One of the measures would be to curtail sports and other extramural activities to focus on learning.IOL