The Department of Basic Education may only be able to start phasing in Grade 7 and 12 pupils from 1 June, according to Minister Angie Motshekga.
Motshekga and her higher education counterpart, Blade Nzimande, briefed the nation on Thursday, outlining the plans to ensure teaching and learning resume as the country fights the coronavirus pandemic.
But the return to school for Grades 7 and 12 from June depends on the department’s plans to ensure that schools are safe and Covid-19 compliant.
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The department plans to have personal protective equipment (PPE) delivered to all schools in the country.
It will have schools deep cleaned, and also make sure that all necessary support is provided for teachers, non-teaching staff and pupils.
Motshekga said parents had been concerned that pupils would be returning to schools from May, but that it would not be the case.
She said the department had decided to postpone the May/June National Senior Certificate rewrite examinations and it would now merge with the November/December exams.
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This will see more than a million candidates sitting for the final exams at the end of the year.
Preparations for exams
The department could not complete its preparations for the exams due to the lockdown. The preparations include the printing and distribution of question papers, the appointment of invigilators, and assessing the general readiness in marking centres.
Motshekga stressed that the department would need to make sure it is aligned to the risk-adjusted plans. It also had to take into account the epicentres of the virus in the various provinces and metros.
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Based on all the work the department still needs to do, it is proposed that office-based staff return to work on 4 May, in line with a directive from the Department of Public Service and Administration, Motshekga said.
She added that staff will ensure that all the groundwork is done to ensure that schools are ready in all provinces.
Once that is done, the school management teams will return from 11 May to prepare for the return of the pupils.
Teachers will then be expected to return on 18 May, followed by the Grade 7s and 12s on 1 June.
Motshekga, however, emphasised that once the administrative work was completed, the school calendar would be gazetted until then.
The suggested dates were only a “proposal” and subject to possible changes.
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Speaking on private schools, Motshekga said the department had also consulted with the schools, and expected it to only operate if Covid-19 compliant.
She said it would depend on the schools whether they wanted to open during Level 4 or Level 3 of the lockdown, adding that this would be on condition that it accommodates the acceptable number of pupils.
The minister also urged parents, who have children attending fee-paying schools, to pay because the fees are used to pay staff employed by the school governing body.
She urged parents to make alternative arrangements with schools, should they be unable to pay.