From social distancing to vaccinations — here are five key things to know as schools reopen

Regulations remain in place to ensure the safety of staff, pupils and teachers

12 January 2022 - 09:38
By Cebelihle Bhengu
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga updated the media on the reopening of schools in 2022.
Image: Freddy Mavunda Basic education minister Angie Motshekga updated the media on the reopening of schools in 2022.

As pupils in inland provinces return to school on Wednesday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said rotational timetabling will remain in 2022.

Last year the department implemented rotational timetables for schools that could not ensure physical distancing between pupils.

In a media briefing about the department’s readiness for the reopening of schools, the minister said the regulations will remain in place to ensure the safety of staff, pupils and teachers and minimise their chances of contracting and spreading Covid-19. 

Here are five important things you should know ahead of back to school in 2022: 

School infrastructure development

The minister said the department, with the help of private companies, had made significant progress in building new schools, developing infrastructure and eradicating pit latrines in schools in rural areas.

“Out of the 3,228 schools, we have completed 1,156. We have provided electricity to 373 schools and built 280 new schools in the past year. A total of 1,439 schools no longer have pit latrines and 1,423 schools are under construction.”

Reduced social distancing

Motshekga said the basic education department will consult the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs to reduce the required social distance of 1m to allow more children to attend school. 

“We have encouraged schools able to accommodate pupils with reduced social distancing of a metre to do so to make sure we can bring back as many pupils as possible. We presented a submission last year where we wanted the space to be reduced to 0.5m,” she said.

Vaccination of pupils 

The Department of Health in partnership with school governing bodies will intensify  vaccination programmes for children aged between 12 and 17 years.

Motshekga said schools will not offer vaccinations on site as the health department does not have enough capacity. She said pupils will not be vaccinated without their consent or that of their parents. 

“If 12-year-olds present themselves at health facilities for vaccination, it is completely out of our control. Our preference is that parents will work with us to motivate and support pupils to vaccinate,” said the minister. 

Parents allowed to attend school activities 

Motshekga said directives that prohibited parents from attending school activities at the height of the pandemic were being amended to include them in children’s developmental activities.

“The amendment in this regard is about permitting spectators at sports venues. Parents were at pains that when there are sporting activities, they could not be spectators or only one parent could attend,” said Motshekga. 

School placements 

Motshekga said the department was aware of the backlog faced by some parents whose children have not been placed in schools. She urged them to place their children at any available school to ensure the smooth running of the school calendar.

“We know it can’t be comforting for parents to watch other children going to school while their child is yet to be placed. By law, we are responsible and will do so. However, we urge parents to work with and allow provinces to place pupils where there is space,” she said.