The marking of matric exam papers kicked off on Monday. More than 4 million scripts will be marked before 22 January 2021.
Basic Education spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga said the first day of marking exams went well, as the department did not run into major issues.
The department has hired a smaller number of centre managers and senior markers to prepare marking centres for the arrival of more markers.
"We want to make sure that safety is a priority and the health of all workers is of paramount importance. That's why we have made sure that very close to every centre there will be a medical professional who will be available to make sure that they are in good health and that they comply with all the requirements that should be complied with."
The department is racing against time, as results for the exams are expected to be released on 23 February 2021.
This is much later than the usual release date of results, following the many disruptions the education department faced in 2020.
"We are doing this also making sure that the marking is not disrupted or interrupted so that we stay on schedule because one day that we lose is going to affect the entire schedule. We don't want to see that happening because it could impact negatively on the lives of the young people who work so hard to write their exams and are looking forward to going to university this year." said Mhlanga.
As learners and teachers prepare to return to school, Mhlanga has clarified that schools will continue with rotational timetables that were introduced last year.
"It will be difficult to have normal school hours because that would mean full capacity in every school and that we can't afford right now because we still need to comply with social distancing requirements so we need to make sure that we do everything that we can to save lives while we're getting the academic programme to move on."
The rotational timetable was announced by Minister Angie Motshekga, after the department had to restructure the curriculum and comply with Covid-19 physical distancing requirements.
Learners are expected to be back at school on 27 January. The department hopes to use the next 3 years to help schools catch up with content that was trimmed out of the 2020 curriculum.