South Africa


Last cohort of learners will go back to class on 31 August

Last cohort of learners will go back to class on 31 August
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - July 08: Matric learners wearing face masks in class 12D at Excelsior Senior Secondary School in Belhar, listen intently to veteran Biology teacher, Mr PJ Williams, on Day 104 of the National Lockdown on July 08, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Roger Sedres)

Amended regulations published by the Department of Basic Education will see the last cohort of learners return to school on the last day of August. This cohort comprises Grade 5 and Grade 8 learners who presumably have been out of school since March. 

While priority has aptly been given to Grade 12 and Grade 7 learners, some grades have not been to school since March following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown. 

By 20 July – three days before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a break for public schools – only grades R, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 had returned to school. Left behind were grades 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9, who had initially been scheduled to return between 27 July and 31 August. These grades lost approximately 89 school days. 

Although the Department of Basic Education (DBE) broadcast lessons for learners on radio and television, and provided access to free-rated educational websites, there is no measure of whether the remote learning options were effective, especially in the absence of educators.

According to the new regulations, educators are expected to return to school as determined by the dates of returning grades, while school management teams and principals are expected to be on duty to prepare for the return of other grades and the administration of the national school nutrition programme. 

On 24 August, learners in grade R, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 11 will return to school, as will learners attending Schools of Skill in years 1, 2 and 3. 

Grades 5 and 8, as well as those in Grade 4 and Grade 5 at schools for learners with severe intellectual disabilities will return on 31 August. 

Grade 12 learners will return on 3 August and Grade 7 on 11 August.

All public schools that were previously permitted to deviate from the phased-in return to school can refer to the permit issued to them when they first applied. Schools that have never applied for a deviation can still apply to the head of the provincial department. 

Deviations give schools that are ready to accept a large number of learners on the same date or on an alternative date to the gazetted one the leeway to do so, provided they meet the Covid-19 regulation requirements. 

In the same breath, they allow schools that have not met regulation requirements to deviate from the gazetted return date and choose an alternative one. 

The Eastern Cape education department applied this deviation when grades 3, 6 and 11 had to return to school on 6 July but instead pushed the date to 20 July out of the fear that the province would not be able to manage Covid-19 cases in schools with the return of more learners. 

Furthermore, the regulations still spell out that parents or caregivers who do not wish their children to return to school must apply for an exemption from the head of the provincial department. Learners can be granted a full or partial exemption, depending on the reasons provided. 

This also applies to parents whose children have moved to virtual learning since the period of the lockdown, and those who wish to continue home-schooling. 

Revised school calendar 

Contrary to the president’s announcement that the academic year would run into 2021, under the revised school calendar, grades R-11 will complete their school year on 15 December. 

And “the 2020 Grade 12 examinations will be completed by 15 December and the marking will be concluded on 22 January with results released on 23 February 2021,” the national department said on 1 August. 

Learners can still expect a one-week break from 26 to 30 October to separate terms 3 and 4. The 2021 school year will commence on 25 January for educators, and learners will join a few days, the department said. DM

Parents or caregivers whose children are still at home can access the following learner support programmes:

SABC learner support programme schedule: 

  • SABC 1: Mon – Sun 05h00 – 06h00           
  • SABC 2: Mon – Fri and 09h30 -11h00
  • SABC 3: Mon – Fri 06h00 – 07h00

For the radio learning support programme, parents, caregivers and learners can access the following schedule:

Visit: which contains all learning resources, including study guides, video tutorials and free-rated websites with learning resources for pupils in all grades. You can access the website for free.


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