South Africa

Basic Education

Grades 7 and 12 likely to resume on 1 June

Grades 7 and 12 likely to resume on 1 June
Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga addresses members of the media on the re-opening of schools as South Africa continues the fight against the spread of Covid-19. 30 April 2020. (Photo: GCIS/Jairus Mmutle)

On 1 June schools are set to re-open for Grades 7 and 12 only – with dates for other grades yet to be confirmed depending on whether schools meet health and safety requirements. 

The department announced that office-based staff will return to work on 4 May, school management teams on 11 May followed by teachers on 18 May. 

Grades 12 and 7 are expected to report to school on 1 June but this date will change if safety conditions are not met. 

“Classes will be sanitised every day, there will be no clustering of desks these are [some] of the conditions which are going to determine our phasing-in,” said the minister of basic education Angie Motshekga. 

A massive public outcry ensued on Wednesday after the department made presentations to the basic education committee in parliament, with dates proposing the phase-in process for learners begins on 6 May – next week. 

Committee members also questioned a number of gaps in the plan, relating to health and safety provisions, unequal access to learning opportunities since the schools closed and inadequate facilities. 

Motshekga said they are opening the sector “so that the officials can go prepare”. 

While Motshekga confirmed that they have had about 50 consultation meetings with various sector bodies, compromising of unions, school governing bodies, and civil society organisations since schools were shut, some say their suggestions have not been considered. 

“The department’s plans show no indications of the constant consultations we’ve had with them as a sector,” said Basil Manuel, the executive director of the SA National Professional Teachers’ Association. 

Manuel spoke to Daily Maverick prior to the media briefing held on Thursday 30 April. 

On the provisions that the department says it will provide, he asked:

“How is the department going to ensure that these things are there?”

The department’s plan is to provide emergency water supplies to 3 475 schools, cloth face masks (2 per learner) for Quintile 1 to 4 learners, furniture for schools whose classrooms still rely on multi-seater desks and mobile classrooms for overcrowded classrooms, to name a few. 

Motshekga was adamant that the other Grades will only be phased-in if all preparations are in place. 

“For the whole of May, we will be preparing to accept Grades 7 and 12. We will only phase in the other grades, as and when we are prepared,

“On the other hand we are also saying that we should protect the academic year. Especially for Grade 12s” 

The minister seemed to imply that matric pupils and Grade 7 learners will, under whatever circumstances, complete the academic year. 

This is echoed by the plan, based on the expectation that matric pupils must cover the entire curriculum, write both their mid-year (May/June) exams and finals (November/December) exams during the same period. 

Preliminary examinations will be written in September. 

She added that for other grades (internal) the curriculum will be trimmed, with the possibility that learners will be tested on what has been covered. 

“There is no pass one pass all. If the need arises, they might even repeat grades.”

Remote learning support programs that were provided by the department, including online learning undertaken by well-resourced schools, according to Motshekga, have less impact on learners. 

“Schools tell us that impact is less than 20% compared to what would’ve happened in our classrooms. Our strength as a sector is in the classroom, if we are to save the school year.”

The cancelled May/June matric rewrite exams will be written alongside the 2020 matric examinations. Over a million candidates will sit for the end-of-the-year examinations under this merger.

Learners and educators who are currently in other towns, provinces, cities or neighboring countries, will be permitted to return to their residences located near their schools. 

A new school calendar will be Gazetted once new learning conditions have been finalised and implemented by schools. DM


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