It's official: Schools will reopen on June 1 for matrics and grade 7s

19 May 2020 - 18:24 By Matthew Savides and Zingisa Mvumvu

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced that grade 7 and 12 pupils will return to classrooms on June 1 2020 while teachers will return to schools on May 25. Motshekga assured the public that the government would be implementing safety measures to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus in reopened schools.

South African schools will reopen on June 1 — starting with grade 12 and 7 pupils.

And when the doors are opened after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus lockdown in SA, pupils will return in a staggered fashion.

This is according to basic education minister Angie Motshekga, who was speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday evening.

“The national coronavirus command council and cabinet has approved the reopening of schools as of June 1. We will start with grade 7s and 12s,” she said.

Motshekga said the revised school calendar will be gazetted “soon”. This would indicate the opening and closing dates and the breaks in between.

“The coronavirus has brought a lot of anxiety to us as a nation. I am aware that parents and children, teaching and non-teaching staff ... have been asking questions over the future of the academic year and what is going to happen to them and the academic year,” she said.

“There was always certainty that schools will have to open.”

Safety remained of the upmost importance, she said.

“The key principles that had to guide our work was to be informed by the safety of learners, the safety of teachers and our workers in schools, and also ensuring that, as we plan to reopen schools, it does not contribute in any way to the spread of the virus.”

All schools - even those located in the pandemic's epicentres, the metropolitan cities - will also reopen.

Motshekga said masks and sanitisers had already been ordered. Some had been delivered and the rest was being kept for safekeeping at warehouses to avoid theft.

The minister also acknowledged the impact the pandemic might be having on the mental health of learners and teachers. To this end, psychologists and social workers would be on standby to provide assistance where necessary.

"We are aware of the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on families and society in general. It is unprecedented. As a result, an increase in social, mental, psychological and emotional difficulties among learners, educators and officials is anticipated, due to losses and trauma experienced through Covid-19," she said.

"Schools as social institutions are serviced by the psychosocial support services of the departments of social development and health. We have been working closely together with other departments in the social cluster.

"In addition to these, the basic education sector has psychologists and social workers who had prior training on counselling. They will be able to use their skills to support schools."

A different approach would be employed in working on a plan to phase in special schools, she said.

"We are mindful of the needs of learners with disabilities. The DBE [department of basic education] is working with provinces to ensure that special schools are adequately provided for in all the plans we have put together.

"Our planning and procurement has considered the needs of learners with disabilities and those in special schools."

On early childhood development (ECD), Motshekga did not want to put her head on the block, saying only that the matter was being dealt with in conjunction with the departments of health and social development.

"Due and careful consideration will be made to ensure that we maintain the delicate balance between allowing ECD [centres] to operate alongside the safety and health of the children and their caregivers."