Academic year for public schools to be extended beyond 2020: Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa says the current academic year will go beyond 2020, after announcing a temporary closure of all public schools on Thursday night.
This comes after immense pressure from teachers' unions and other non-government organisations who were opposed to the reopening of schools as the country reaches the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the nation on Thursday night, Ramaphosa said the move to close all public schools came after basic education minister Angie Motshega met with over 60 organisations representing teachers, school principals, parents, school governing bodies, civil society formations and independent schools, as well as education MECs from all nine provinces,
Ramaphosa did not give an estimate on when 2020 the academic year was expected to be completed.
The extension also comes after the department of higher education & training had also confirmed that the academic year for universities and Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) colleges was expected to go on until 2021.
“As a result of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the current academic year will be extended beyond the end of 2020. The minister of basic education will provide details on the management of the remainder of the school year,” said Ramaphosa.
“We have taken a deliberately cautious approach to keep schools closed during a period when the country is expecting its greatest increase in infections.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that all public schools will be closing again for 4 weeks, ahead of the anticipated Covid-19 peak in South Africa. During an address on July 23 2020, Ramaphosa also stressed zero tolerance on alleged corruption and looting of public relief funds and resources
Speaking about the full closure of public schools, Ramaphosa said the closure was expected to last for a month between July 27 and August 24.
“There are however some exceptions. Grade 12 learners and teachers will only take a one-week break from now, returning on the August 3. Grade 7 learners will take a two-week break, returning to school on the August 10.
“Specific arrangements will be made for different categories of special schools.”
He said during this period, the school nutrition programme will still be in operation, with parents or pupils being allowed to go and collect the meals directly from schools.
Ramaphosa said it was important that schools do not become sites of transmission for the virus at a time when infections are rising fast.
He said other countries have had to take similar measures of closing down schools, depending on the circumstance they have been faced with.
Speaking of the meetings between Motshekga and the various stakeholders, Ramaphosa said divergent views had been expressed on the closure of schools.
“It is necessary to report that it was difficult to find consensus on the best approach, just as there are differing views among international and local experts on the circumstances under which schools should be reopened,” he said.
“What everyone does agree on though is that the health, the academic and social development of learners must remain our foremost concern.
“This is consistent with the advice of the World Health Organisation [WHO], which argues for a balanced consideration of the educational needs of the child and trends in the development of the disease.”
The president said WHO officials have said the best and safest way to reopen schools is in the context of low community transmission.
He added that the cabinet had taken all views into account when making its decision.