Education Department assesses first day of school reopening

Angie Motshekga

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga visited various schools across Gauteng today to assess their implementation of the COVID-19 health and safety regulations.

Today marks the first day back at school for Grade 7 and 12 learners across the country. This under the new COVID-19 school environment which includes the compulsory use of face masks, daily screening of students and teachers and adherence to social distancing protocols at all times.

The Minister expressed her satisfaction at the adherence to protocol at the schools she visited, saying -

“I’m satisfied that most schools have really gone out of their way and also visually demonstrated or illustrated how the social distancing is supposed to operate throughout the school with markings,”

Motshekga said that while the reopening of schools was off to a smooth start, should any COVID-19 symptoms be detected at an institution, the school must adhere to strict safety procedures.

“Just like in shops or factories, schools will be treated with the same strict adherence to health protocols. Teachers have been initiated, principals know what to do, senior school managers have been trained, learners have been inducted and that is why we say no teaching can take place before any induction,”

The first week of June aimed to prepare teachers to welcome learners back to school, and what the protocol will be should a positive case be reported.

Motshekga said that a number of teachers tested positive last week adding that again the health protocols kick in, “the Health Department takes over and the school like in any other institution closes for decontamination and the Health Department gives us the go-ahead to open or not to open,”

Homeschooling during Covid-19

To help anxious parents during this time, the Basic Education Department has introduced homeschooling as an option.

The minister said that the sector is obligated to work with parents to establish a plan that will allow for the safe return of children who have underlying comorbidities “so it is not a choice not to come”.

“If a parent is anxious, it is a different story. The first step we have said they should go for homeschooling but clearly a number of parents have come back to us to say it’s a very difficult one,” she said.

According to the directions in the gazetted regulations, parents who choose not to send a learner to school must apply to the Head of Department who will decide whether to exempt a learner either entirely, partially or conditionally, from mandatory school attendance – provided it is in the best interests of the learner.

Read also: The New Normal: A guide to reopening schools