2021 School year to start late January, says DBE

With most of the year spent under lockdown due to Covid-19, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says that schools will officially reopen for the new school year on 25 January 2021.

Motshekga expressed her concern for learners who have not returned to school yet, despite schools operating at full capacity under alert level 1 of the lockdown.

“We are concerned that there are learners who have not returned to school yet. In the schools that we have visited, the return rate is between 80% and 90%. While it is encouraging to see the numbers increase gradually, we appeal to parents to release their children to return to school,” said the Minister.

“First, let me confirm that schools will reopen on 25 January 2021; second, the school calendar will be gazetted tomorrow, Friday, 2 October, after which it will be publicly available." 

The updated school calendar for 2021 has been posted - you can find it here.

“We are fully aware that the country needs the school calendar for effective planning purposes, and we have worked hard to ensure it is done properly, taking into account the disruptions that have occurred in 2020,” said the minister in a briefing on Thursday.

This provided a valuable update on key developments in the basic education sector following the confusion caused by the lockdown and subsequent closure of schools in the country.

Motshekga added that schools will have to carry over some of the curriculum work into the following year.

“We have done our best to accommodate the interests of everybody, but our priority is the learner,” she said.

Earlier grades suffered most during the closure and Motshekga expressed concern at the impact this would have on long-term learning and the potential growth in inequality in learning outcomes.

This situation, the minister said, makes it even more urgent than before to provide sufficient support to teachers.

“All teachers know that catching up lost learning, or learning recovery is not an easy, quick activity but requires a lot of dedicated time.

“This will include a concerted effort by both parents and teachers and will need to extend into the 2021 academic year. To allow for this, we have revised the annual teaching plans to extend to next year.”

Learner Support

The department is taking the necessary steps to help learners get back into the swing of things.  

One example of this is that each province has a range of support measures to help learners - this even includes weekend classes. 

Another is the launch of Woza Matrics, which was created in collaboration with the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT).

This is an initiative designed to provide additional support to the Matric Class of 2020, as they prepare for the 2020 National Senior Certificate examination. We thank all the partners involved in the initiative.

“We are really grateful for the commitment, dedication and sacrifice demonstrated by our educators in every province,” said Motshekga.

Teachers with comorbidities also return to school

An agreement was reached in May of this year at the Education Labour Relations Council that teachers with comorbidities would be allowed to work from home during lockdown levels 2 and 3.

Now that South Africa has passed its peak, teachers with comorbidities will join students in returning to school, effective from 21 September. 

“Provinces have reported that all teachers have gone back to work, except those teachers who are on maternity or sick leave. We thank each and every one of our teachers for heeding the call to return to school. Health and safety measures remain in place and everybody is expected to comply, as we work to finish the work for the 2020 academic year,” said the Minister.

Extracurricular activities

The DBE has encouraged the resumption of non-contact sports training and physical activities in schools, provided that the necessary steps are taken to protect learners and combat the spread of the virus

The department is set to gazette new directions on the resumption of non-contact sports once it concludes the necessary processes. 



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