The Basic Education Department says that steps are being taken to welcome pupils in Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11 back to schools across the country on the 6th of July as part of the department's continues with its phased reopening of schools amid COVID-19.
This after Grade 7 and 12 students returned to the classroom under strict safety protocol earlier this month as the government implemented the phased reopening of the country and the economy.
Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, the department’s Director-General Mathanzima Mweli said that, while the department is prepared to welcome back 52% of pupils next week, the rate of infections in the country will be considered as well as the capacity of the health sector.
“Although we are saying 52% of learners, we are not fixed to bringing 52%. We have heard that community infections are flaring up, we discussed this last night with unions, and we are saying our plan is extremely flexible.
“We are not going to push for 52% to come if we can see that there is danger. The community infections that are happening might spill over to schools. We are very cautious of that,” he said.
Since the gradual reopening of schools began on the 8th of June, 523 pupils, 1 169 staff members and 775 schools have reportedly been affected by COVID-19.
“We not only look at our capacity to run the system but also have to be mindful about the capacity of the health sector to deal with the flaring up of infections in communities because those schools are located in communities, so we are alive to that reality.” Said Mweli.
Rotational school attendance
In an effort to maintain social distancing at schools, Mweli presented the department’s plan to amend the timetable to ensure that only 50% of the total learner enrolment is present at a given moment.
The department suggests that learners either attend school on a bi-weekly basis, rotate to be present every second day or all learners attend on a particular day.