Education department announces learners will now only start schooling next week

In a statement on Sunday night that finally provided a bit of clarity to the public on the basic education department's plans for the resumption of schooling, the department said the reopening that was meant to have taken place tomorrow for grades 7 and 12 would now be delayed for a further week.

The statement offered some insight into why the ongoing delay is continuing and what schools should be doing while matters are finalised.

Those schools that had already accepted boarders back into their facilities were told to continue with the "orientation" of these pupils, though no formal schooling would yet commence. Teachers and other staff would only be arriving this week for further preparations.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said that the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on Saturday to assess the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.

"CEM received a report from the consortium of service providers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the external evaluation and monitoring of the state of readiness. Rand Water, as an implementing agent delivering water to 3,500 schools, also presented its report.

"The Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) also presented its technical report. All three reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening tomorrow, albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected 80% state of readiness. CEM was concerned that, in some provinces personal protective equipment for learners in particular had not been received; and some schools had not been made ready for the arrival of teachers and learners," said Mhlanga.

"CEM then took decisions, which have since been shared with teacher unions, school governing body associations, independent schools' associations, the SA Human Rights Commission, Principals' Association, South African National Association for Specialised Education, and other stakeholders."

Meetings had taken place, since yesterday and today, in which they shared the outcome of the reports and the proposed course of action.

"CEM took informed decisions to have schools to continue to reopen on 1 June 2020, but with school management teams, teachers and non-teaching staff only arriving to prepare for the arrival of learners.

"Provincial and district officials should ensure that health, safety, and social distancing requirements are strictly adhered to when teachers arrive. This whole coming week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping [sic] and ramping [sic] of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.

"The date on which Grade 7 and 12 learners have to report back to school is 8 June 2020."

They had, however, received reports that indicated that some learners in boarding schools had already arrived.

"We urge the schools to continue with orientation of the learners in terms of the health and safety procedures that should be in place," said Mhlanga.

The department held meetings with the association representing independent schools on Saturday and Sunday and it was also agreed on how they should proceed regarding the reopening of their schools.

(Edited by Charles Cilliers)

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