The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga says that the return to school must move at the same pace across all nine provinces.
Motshekga said that her department was confident that each province would be ready for the phased restart of the academic year.
All provinces must open schools at the same pace
"We are confident that the reopening of school across provinces will happen as outlined in the protocol that has been developed," Motshekga said on Tuesday 19 May.
"The reports we got are showing that preparations have been taking place and good progress has been made. All indications are that the preconditions for the reopening of schools will be met — obviously with the premium being on saving lives.
"The delivery of the COVID-19 essentials are being done in all provinces to ensure that safe places. The items regarded as essential are: sanitisers, masks, water and sanitation.
"Of course the schools will be cleaned, and most are being cleaned as we speak.
"The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) agreed that provinces must move at the same pace to ensure that nobody is left behind.
"CEM emphasised the need to pay special attention to the health and safety of all learners, teachers and all employees in schools.
"Earlier today, we met with teacher unions and school governing associations, together with the principals' association. We updated them regarding our plans."
Provinces are not on an even footing
It is clear from past communications from the department that the respective provinces are not progressing at the same pace when it comes to readiness.
The availability of clean water and sanitation is the chief obstacle for many schools, and the Minister acknowledged that the health department has a poor record in this regard.
Four of the nine provinces have lagged behind in preparations with KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the North West having a number of schools awaiting the delivery of water tanks.
The Minister said they would work with the department of water and sanitation to ensure that all schools have enough water and toilets.
Schools and provincial education departments are expected to divert budget from other areas to ensure all schools are equipped to safely reopen on 1 June.
Motshekga conceded that many schools were not yet ready and not all had received the necessary materials to deep clean the schools in preparation for opening.
The high rate of vandalism at schools was cited as a reason for the delayed delivery of materials to some locations.
It is still unclear which areas will move to the lower levels of lockdown, but Motshekga said that the school programme must move at the same speed.
Both the Western Cape And Gauteng Education departments believe they will be ready to reopen, but there are serious questions about how schools can open in areas that remain on level 4.
Mothsekga promised that all deliveries of materials and water tanks would be made during the countdown to restart which begins on 25 May.
"The council of education ministers (CEM) met yesterday to consider the latest reports on the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.
"CEM has noted the progress that has been made. We wanted school management teams to open schools and receive the material required. The first consignments have arrived in schools, and more deliveries will be made as time progresses."