Pretoria - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has urged parents to allow the various provinces to allocate unplaced learners where there is space available in order to get the academic calendar rolling without any hiccups.
Motshekga, with the department’s deputy director-general, Simone Geyer, briefed the media yesterday on the readiness of schools ahead of reopening today.
The minister said following consultations with the various communities it was decided that the inland provinces, which included the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West, would reopen today.
Coastal provinces such as the Eastern Cape, parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape would kick off their academic calendar next week.
Motshekga said the department had been able to place the majority of the learners with the exception of provinces such as Gauteng, parts of the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, which were still dealing with some problems.
Despite these issues, she said the affected provinces had assured her department that they would deal with the issues promptly.
In light of this, she urged parents to allow the provinces to place learners in schools with space even if it was not to their preference.
“We know that it can’t be comforting for parents to watch other children going to school tomorrow whilst their child is yet to be placed and by law, we are responsible and will do so. However, we urge parents to work with and allow the provinces to place learners where there is space.”
“We understand that parents have their preferences, but some of these desired schools no longer have the capacity to allow any further learners into their classes,” she added.
The Gauteng department announced that it had placed 276 564 Grade 1 and 8 learners, while 1 465 were yet to be allocated a spot.
Motshekga said that even though her department was also still exploring the possibility of returning schools to normal following mounting calls by teachers’ unions, parents and schools, such a request could not be permitted at the moment.
As such, she said where possible schools would remain on the rotational timetable.
"The reality is that Covid is still with us, and we have to comply with the protocols and can't do it on our own."
In terms of school readiness, Geyer said that the department had started monitoring school readiness for the coming year in November already.
In addition to their own monitoring systems, she said that they were also working alongside the National Education Collaboration Trust, which conducted its own independent assessment of the reports furnished by the provinces.
According to Geyer, they focused on Covid-19 protocols, school admissions, provision of teachers and learners support material, curriculum management, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) management and the national school nutrition programmes.
With Covid-19 still in place, she said they also checked infrastructure provision with an emphasis on water, sanitation and learner transport in areas that required it.
“There is a lot of work put into getting schools ready even before the year begins, and all of this is tightly managed by a team of people at the national and provincial level to check not only the readiness for the coming year as they close, but also to pick up problems which may emerge.”
The department’s officials announced that primary schools would reopen at full capacity, with the requirement for the timetable to include five to 15-minute breaks every two hours for learners to get fresh air.
High schools, however, would remain on rotation, as Motshekga said they could not accommodate the 1m distance required between learners, especially for subjects where all learners attended.
She said the majority of schools would continue on the rotational timetable with the exception of a few that could apply to the department to return to full capacity if they met all the protocols.
With regards to extracurricular activities and sport, she said amendments had been made to enable parents to be able to be present to support their children's activities.
Lastly, Motshekga stressed that her department was not vaccinating in schools because the Department of Health did not have the capacity.
She said if 15-year-olds presented themselves at a vaccination site, it was a matter between them and the Department of Health.