The big back to school debate - from controversial announcement to postponement, here are 5 must-read stories

01 June 2020 - 14:50 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Two weeks ago basic education minister Angie Motshekga said the government would provide schools with sanitisers and personal protective equipment ahead of reopening on 1 June, but on May 31 the department postponed reopening until June 8 because 'many schools are not ready'.
Two weeks ago basic education minister Angie Motshekga said the government would provide schools with sanitisers and personal protective equipment ahead of reopening on 1 June, but on May 31 the department postponed reopening until June 8 because 'many schools are not ready'.
Image: Cebisile Mbonani

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga continues to dominate debate on reopening schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teachers and pupils have lost nearly three months due to the government-imposed lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.

Here are five must-read stories since Mothsekga made the back to school announcement two weeks ago:

The big announcement

Two weeks ago, Motshekga announced that the national coronavirus command council had given her department the green light to reopen schools on June 1. At the time, Motshekga said pupils in grades 7 and 12 would be the first to be phased in as schools are expected to reopen in a staggered fashion.

She said government would provide schools with sanitisers and personal protective equipment (PPE). 

ANC supports back to school 

Party spokesperson Pule Mabe said Motshekga's plan provided guidance on measures to be followed during level 3 of the lockdown. He said the department of basic education had put in place effective safety measures, and that they would succeed if individuals involved,  including pupils, teachers and government employees, followed them.

Union says schools are not ready

One week ago, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said assessments conducted in schools across the country revealed  it was still unsafe for pupils and teachers to return to school.

In the North West, most schools had not been disinfected, there was insufficient PPE and no clear guidelines had been provided on screening employees with underlying diseases.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the union said there were no sanitisers or guidelines on how the department was planning to assist special schools.

Back to school postponed 

Just hours before schools were expected to reopen on Monday, the basic education department announced on Sunday evening that schools will reopen on June 8. This because some schools had not received PPE. The department said this week will be used for orientation and training of teachers.

Cyril Ramaphosa calls for transparency 

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said there must be transparency about when schools will reopen.

He wrote in his weekly online newsletter: “Everyone who is a key role player, be they a parent, a school governing body member, a teacher or a government official, should be able to have the correct information about the state of preparedness of each school.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure the learning environment is safe.”

Ramaphosa said steps are being taken by the government to address concerns raised by teachers, unions and parents.


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