By Sisonke Mlamla
Cape Town – Despite the government’s declaration that South Africa had entered the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said that her department was ready for the 2021 academic year.
Motshekga said schools would reopen on January 25 for teachers and learners would be expected back on January 27, saying that all provinces have finalised admission processes.
District offices would be available to assist parents where the need arises.
Motshekga said that since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had been monitoring the state of provinces on a weekly basis to ensure systems were in place to cope under the pandemic and to provide support where it was needed, to ensure the smooth reopening and running of schools.
“We will maintain the delicate balance of health and safety in schools and also ensure that we plug gaps for curriculum recovery, which we have been able to successfully during the 2020 academic year,” she said.
She said senior managers in the sector under the leadership of the department’s director-general would be working during the festive season to put the final touches to the already existing plan for 2021.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta has called on the department to come up with intervention mechanisms to cover lost ground on the curriculum.
“Motshekga should introduce a plan of action which will mainly look at addressing the lost time as far as completion of the annual teaching plan is concerned,” Makaneta said.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson, Kerry Mauchline, said they would continue engaging with the national department to implement a recovery plan over the coming year.
“We will be monitoring the status of the pandemic very closely in the run-up to schools reopening at the end of January. Our priority will remain the same as before – to continue delivering quality education while keeping our learners and staff as safe as we possibly can,” Mauchline said.
The Progressive Organisation Formation’s interim secretary, Brian Isaacs, said that the situation should be monitored by the department, teacher unions, parents and student bodies and should agree to the postponement of the start of the academic year should there be a peak in the virus in January and February.
The Progressive Principals’ Association spokesperson, Faiek Abrahams, said the WCED had instructed schools to prepare two timetables, one for normal circumstances and one as was in place under the Covid-19 hard lockdown.
“In this way they have covered the possibility of Covid-19 restrictions which might still have to be adhered to. Schools should have planned for both scenarios,” Abrahams said.
He said he was concerned about staffing issues, budget cuts and how it would affect underprivileged and under resourced schools.