Schools prepare to reopen
On Tuesday, Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education, outlined the arrangements for the staggered reopening of schools.
Schools closed abruptly in March as early cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in South Africa.
There has been mixed reaction to their reopening, with some parents saying they would prefer to keep their children at home.
While all teachers, with the exception of those over 60 or with underlying medical conditions who may continue to work from home, must return, irrespective of the grade they teach, Motshekga did not give a back-to-school date for the return of other grades.
She said a revised school calendar would be gazetted soon. It would indicate the opening and closing dates and holidays.
A document on the department’s website outlines health and safety protocols schools need to take in order to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19. These include the distribution of masks to children, temperature checks three times a day, screening of those with any symptoms, classes of no more than 20 and no sharing of desks.
Break times will be staggered. Play and sports areas will be out of bounds.
Children are advised against hugging and other physical contact with one another, and may not share lunches, stationery or other items. Good hygiene must be practised at school, including hand sanitising at the entrance to reception and classrooms. Classrooms and bathrooms must be cleaned regularly.
If a learner has been exposed to the virus, they should self-isolate for two weeks, while in the case of a teacher, the relevant officials will decide on the required measures.
Temporary closures of schools are an option to manage possible cases of Covid-19, following a risk assessment.
In his update briefing on Thursday on preparations in Gauteng, MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said the province, including metropolitan areas such as Johannesburg and Tshwane, was on track to restart the school year, but it was a case of safety first.
No school in the province would be allowed to open without a certificate of compliance. To be compliant, a school must have personal protective equipment for learners and staff, which includes masks, and ensure sanitised conditions and physical distancing.
Gauteng has recruited Youth Brigades, young people who are being trained to assist schools in keeping to screening requirements and giving other support.
Guidelines are laid out for school transport, feeding schemes and hostels.
The department has entered into an implementation protocol agreement with the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and Rand Water to ensure the delivery of water to schools in need.
Meanwhile, private schools have been given the green light to also restart operations from June 1.
For these schools, managing physical distancing will be easier as they generally have better facilities than some crowded public schools.
Some smaller independent schools that have the space and infrastructure have appealed to the department to be allowed to reintroduce more grades.
In the coming days, schools will continue with final preparations, including briefing parents on steps taken to mitigate risks for those expected to return, and the plans to continue with online support for the grades that will continue working from home.
Motshekga has outlined plans to allow Early Childhood Development Centres to operate under new regulations being finalised for level 3.