South Africa’s schools will re-open on June 1, even though many are not equipped to do so without high risk of new Covid-19 infections.
Under pressure, to be get back to ‘normal’ – or at least some version of ‘new normal’ – the Covid task team under President Cyril Ramaphosa has been in discussions with educators, public health officials and other parties for weeks on the schools re-opening issue.
Plans have previously been announced, only for numerous voices to both support the idea while at the same time questioning whether schools were prepared.
Some organisations and educators have said that so much of the 2020 school year has already been lost – despite efforts to promote home and distance learning – that the academic year ought to be cancelled altogether.
But President Ramaphosa and his team are not keen on that idea.
Instead, his ministers and advisors are saying that schools must re-open in a stepped manner, beginning with the last years of junior and high schools.
Other grades will gradually then return to schools, while in universities lectures and other in-person education will resume, also in a stepped manner.
But there are many saying that even with a stepped approach, there are too many educational centres to ensure that all will open safely.
The decision to return to classrooms will affect more than 13 million school-goers, in over 30,500 schools and nearly half a million teachers.
Returning to schooling is seen here as a major step to ‘normalising’ society during the Covid outbreak.
But a body representing formerly ‘private’ schools which are under government authority but mainly parent-funded, says there are at least 5,000 schools which are “not ready” to re-open and wherein infections with the Covid virus will be likely.
The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA) is the largest and oldest organisation for private schools in SA serving over 850 member schools.
Basic Education minister Motshekga confirmed late Monday that Grade 7 (last year of junior school) and Grade 12 pupils (last year of high school) would be returning to school on June 1, while starter grades will return on July 8.