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Parliament: Phasing-in of schooling to resume from next...

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Parliament: Phasing-in of schooling to resume from next week

(Photo: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp)

The Department of Basic Education is pushing forward with its plans to phase-in the reopening of schools from May 6, starting with Grades 7 and 12. 

The Department of Basic Education announced May 6 as a tentative date for schools to resume during joint proceedings before the Higher Education Committee of the National Assembly and the Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture Committee of the National Council of Provinces. 

The tentative plan outlines that teachers would resume on 4 May while Grades 7 and 12 pupils will be expected back on school grounds on 6 May. 

Grades 11 and 6 will follow on 20 May and the remaining grades will be phased in two weeks apart from each other with Grade R the last grade to be phased in.

The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Reginah Mhaule told committee members on Wednesday, 29 April, during the presentation that they know “life is more important than the academic year”, and the recovery plan accounts for this. 

The department said that a basic, essential hygiene and sanitation package has been developed and provinces are already in the process of procuring items. 

“These include cleaning and disinfection materials, PPEs, sanitisers, handwashing, soap, gloves, cloth masks, and thermometers,” the plan reads. 

The department will for a start provide two cloth face masks per pupil for Quintile 1 up to Quintile 4 schools. 

“Going forward we’ll only cover for Quintile 1 up to 3,” said Hubert Mweli, the department’s director-general. 

Sanitation facilities are non-existent in some schools and the department said they have identified 3,475 schools as requiring emergency water supply. There are approximately “1,000 requests for boreholes and 2,500 for water tanks, pipes, and taps,” according to the department’s presentation. (see full outline below) 

 

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The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo have the most need for urgent water supplies. 

The department’s guidelines for reopening schools stipulate that all classrooms, staff rooms, and other schooling facilities should be sanitised prior to the start of the school day. Learners should practise physical distancing in classrooms and there should be no more than two learners sharing a desk. 

“We have to make sure that we bring our classrooms to at least 40 and below. But we also know that some of our classrooms are overcrowded. We’ve been working with provinces and some were telling us this morning that they’ve ordered 400 mobile classrooms,” Mweli said. 

In addition, Mweli said they are looking into increasing teacher capacity by hiring more teachers to address the issue of overcrowding, and this will not involve hiring retired teachers because those who are older are at risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

“We still have teachers of [younger age] that are unemployed and those ones if there really is a need will come on board,” Mhaule added. 

In terms of scholar transport, the department said they will work with the Department of Transport to ensure that school buses are sanitized and that sanitiser is available for learners to sanitise hands upon boarding the bus. 

“The point we want to emphasise here chair is that the government will be responsible for learner transport provided by the government. Transport provided by parents (which is private arrangements) will have to see that the Covid-19 requirements are adhered to,” Mweli said. 

DA MP Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi asked: “There are schools that have been providing some kind of teaching online, what is being done to ensure that all the other learners receive some kind of education?”

To which the deputy minister Mhaule replied: “We are not taking the private online teaching by schools which have resources as ‘teaching is continuing’. We are not taking that because those children who are not connected or have those resources will be left behind, that’s why we are saying we are going to rework the curriculum.” 

“We are not going to say that work that has been done by schools who have resources, then we count it and assess learners based on that, South Africa is not the same,” she added.

This was not clarified in the briefing, and Daily Maverick is following up on the implication of these comments.  

When the academic year is up and running again, Grade 12 learners will be expected to write the full set of examinations after they have covered the entire curriculum and other grades will be given reworked curriculums and assessed on 80%. 

“The May/June exams for Grade 12 will be combined with the October/November exams and rescheduled for November/December 2020. Marking of examination scripts will run up to end of December 2020. Grade 12 will still write preparatory examinations in September,” the plan notes. 

DA NCOP member Mbulelo Bara told the department that “the report presented does not convince us. I don’t think we are ready to accept kids back into our schools”. 

EFF member, Dr Suzan Thembakwayo, asked: “what happens to schools that don’t meet the requirements? What happens to learners from those schools?”

Deputy-minister Mhauli said “for the readiness, the department is not going to work alone. The Department of Health will guide [us] to say that this school is ready, or this school is not ready,”. 

A media briefing is set to take place tomorrow morning at 10am with the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to officially announce the plans. The minister is said to have presented the same plan to Cabinet in the morning. DM

Daily Maverick will continue to unpack responses and analysis based on the measures announced

 

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