“It will be very risky for us to have a blanket reopening of the schools because not all of our schools are on the same level of readiness or compliance with the health and safety measures of Covid-19.”
This was the reason for the last-minute postponement of the reopening of the schools across the country today (1st of June), offered by Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. She addressed the media on a live broadcast this morning and spent the first 28 minutes apologizing for the inconvenience her late decision may have caused.
The Grade 12 and Grade 7 learners from schools across the country were meant to return to their desks today, but Motshekga said this will only happen next week Monday, the 8th of June. According to her, this is because the majority of schools she inspected, were not at a satisfactory state of readiness.
“As late as Saturday, there were still schools who have not received PPE. Some teachers who arrived at school were visibly fearful and there was not enough time for the principles and governing bodies to induct and prepare these teachers. The provision of water and sanitation is still a major challenge with most of the promised water tanks, still not delivered to the schools without proper water and sanitation facilities. Teachers and support staff need to be inducted and orientated to work under the new “normal” brought about by Covid-19,” she said.
There was also a very stern message to parents who feel too anxious about sending their kids to school amid fears of the coronavirus. “Those parents who feel that they do not want to send their children to school, are obligated to enrol their children for home schooling. By law, children between the ages of 6-years and 15-years old, must be in school. You cannot just keep your children at home and then expect that we must look after you.”
Regarding the concerns related to the matric pupils who have missed their midyear exams because of the postponement of the reopening of schools, the minister said that there is a lot of anxiety on the matter and therefore the May/June examination is going to be administered in December. “If something happens that forces the government to extend the reopening of the schools into next year, we will then reassess the situation and update our parents and learners.”
The minister addressed the question of whether the department would close a school should it be found to be non-compliant. “As a sector, we are obligated to find alternatives in instances where it is found that opening a school is impossible. We will have to find a way that enables all children to access their rights to education.”
In Tzaneen, Ben Vorster High School, Merensky High School, Stanford Lake College, Unicorn Preparatory School and Laerskool Tzaneen Primary were all open and ready to teach. DA Constituency head and Member of Parliament, Desiree van der Walt conducted oversight visits to all of the schools in the area and found that some were in dire need of basic PPE before they could reopen. She has asked for donations of masks, sanitizers and thermometers to assist the schools that have not yet received these from the education department as she does not think the department’s aid will reach all the schools in time. This even despite the postponement of the reopening of schools.
Those who can assist should please contact Desiree on 082 452 0444 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . She has specified that Manorvlei Primary and Sebone Primary need 200 face masks each and some sanitizer. One thermometer is needed at Sebone.