Minister announces return to school, new terms still to be confirmed

Minister Motshekga confirmed that Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils would be returning to school on 1 June 2020, while Grade 1 and Grade 2 pupils will return on 8 July.

In addition, Grade R and pupils with special needs in Grade R will be returning to classrooms on 15 July. The return dates for Grades 3 to 6 and Grades 8 to 11 will be finalised in due course.

School Calendar 2020 draft

The 2020 school year

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa, the original school calendar started on 15 January 2020 and would have concluded on 4 December 2020.

While only certain grades will be allowed to return under the three-tier phased-in approach, the Department of Basic Education confirmed that the 2020 school year will now end on 9 December 2020.

School holidays

As per the National Development plan, "lost school days will be recovered by shortening the June holidays to 5 days and the September holiday to a long weekend" in order to make up for the lost time.

In addition to the above, the fourth school term will be lengthened to conclude on 9 December for pupils, and on 11 December 2020 for teachers.

Curriculum draft dated April 2020

As per the original draft submitted on 30 April 2020, the start of the second term would have been 4 May 2020, and curriculum coverage would take five weeks.

Based on Minister Motshekga's brief, schools will now only start on 1 June 2020, a full month later than originally planned in April 2020.

Whether this would mean that original draft terms will be amended will become clear when the updated school calendar is gazetted.

Safety measures to be implemented

Earlier this month, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, met with MECs, teachers unions and SGBS to discuss the re-opening of schools in South Africa, and how safety measures would be implemented to ensure teachers and pupils' safety. 

As per a statement released by the department, the "consultative sessions happened ahead of the Minister's return to the National Coronavirus Command Council".

Furthermore, the minister confirmed that food handlers and staff at public schools would be provided with PPE. The process of providing schools with adequate supplies of water, sanitiser and masks was currently underway to prepare the schools for the 1 June start date.

Parents who have children with pre-existing conditions would need to communicate with schools about managing their children's return to school. In addition, parents would be allowed to keep their children at home if they were concerned about their safety.

South Africans react

At the time, the decision to send children back to school sparked an outcry from South Africans, with one Twitter user, Marshall Pubalan, tweeting: 

"Angie Motshegka, please explain why [you] want to send the babies to school, but your fellow minister closes the university. This is absolute nonsense; you don't deserve to be the minister of education."

Another user expressed concern by saying that "Mam Angie Motshegka said the [department of education] consulted with unions and institutions and agreed that school should be reopened. Who are these Unions and institutions?"