Inside Gauteng’s plan to reopen schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic

29 April 2020 - 14:45 By Sisanda Aluta Mbolekwa
The Gauteng department of education has come up with a detailed plan about reopening schools in phases. It includes plans to hold walk-in camps so children can catch up on days lost during lockdown, and stringent measures around transportation.
The Gauteng department of education has come up with a detailed plan about reopening schools in phases. It includes plans to hold walk-in camps so children can catch up on days lost during lockdown, and stringent measures around transportation.
Image: 123RF/paylessimages

The Gauteng education department is planning to set up afternoon school camps in a bid to help children make up for lost school days, according to a draft document seen by TimesLIVE.

Some grades would have lost as many as 69 school days by the time they go back to classrooms, according to the national plan to stagger the return dates for different grades in high and primary schools.

A media briefing by basic education minister Angie Motshekga is scheduled for Thursday. According to a briefing and presentation to parliament on Wednesday morning, schools will start reopening in phases from next month.

In a preliminary report, the Gauteng education department shows a staggering amount of lost school hours for the year, with grades 12 and 7 losing at least 20 days while those grades going back to school last would have lost at least 69 days.

The provincial plan of action to deal with the lost time includes “an extension of teaching and learning time, curriculum trimming and intervention, accelerated learning programmes, a review of assessment and examination requirements, scaling down of examinations and the modification of the format of assessments”.

The plan envisages an additional four hours of schooling per week for grade 11 and 12 groups and a shortening of the June, September and December holidays. Then there would be a total of around 198 and 209 school days respectively. A change in curriculum does not seem to be on the cards.

For grade 10, there would bepossible trimming and reorganisation of the school curriculum, but the decision would lie with the department of basic education.

While Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the draft document should be "ignored", it still provides some insight into the department's thinking around resuming schooling in the province.

“I know which document you are referring to. Ignore that document. If we have something to announce, we will announce it," Mabona told TimesLIVE.

According to the document, to make up for lost time, afternoon classes would start as soon as schools reopen, with walk-in camps scheduled for the June 13 to June 22 .

The camps are proposed to accommodate 360 pupils per site, with four blocks of 90 pupils each. Each pupil is to receive masks and gloves at the gate, and each block with 180 pupils will have hand sanitisers.

Pupils will not be allowed to move from one block to another, will leave the site per block at 15 minute intervals, and are to enforce 1.5-metre social distancing.

Social distancing would also be observed at three-week residential camps aimed at catching up on lost time, scheduled to take place between June 23 and July 7.

Pupils would have to be tested when going to the camps, and the camp venues would  accommodate from 150 to 300 pupils.

Each classroom is scheduled to have 30 pupils with a 1.5-metre distance between pupils, and each venue will have 10 classrooms.

Each classroom will be required to have a sanitiser and there would be at least four basins for the washing of hands.

The schooling plan also includes providing support to teachers in their quest to save the year.

This includes “educators being provided with laptops, data connectivity and access, establishing a curriculum unit assisting with identifying lead teachers, districts assisting with clustering of schools and a list of different subjects in various schools and procuring of personal protective equipment to observe social distancing.”

Regarding the transportation of pupils, there was a list of requirements the department expects drivers and companies to meet.

These include a certificate of incorporation from registration of companies, a SA Revenue Service tax clearance certificate, a proof of roadworthy certificate, a vehicle registration certificate, proof of a professional driver’s permit, BBBEE, and liability insurance.

In addition, the department would meet with bus companies regarding regulations such as bus sanitisation each time pupils board the bus, load restrictions on sitting arrangements to enforce social distancing (for example, a 65-seater would have to carry 30 pupils, a 14-seater would have to carry seven pupils) and each pupil using the transport would have to wear a mask and gloves.

The department has stated it will conduct random checks to ensure compliance and that the buses approved are the ones that will be transporting pupils.

Citing the complexities created by the pandemic, the department placed emphasis on not “overwhelming the system and placing under pressure parents, pupils and teachers.”