Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is concerned that dropout rates will spike in 2020. The Minister says while they have put in a lot of work into curbing the number of children who drop out of school over the years, this year may reverse the gains made.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in thousands of schools remaining closed.

Motshekga was visiting schools as part of her oversight on the first day back for Grades R, 6 and 11.

Motshekga says plans are afoot to recruit more teachers as part of meeting the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Motshekga says provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape have already started with the process following a number of teachers not being able to go back to school due to comorbidities.

Teacher unions have raised concerns that Motshekga is not making sure that there will be no teacher crisis when more learners go back to school at the end of July.

Motshekga says that the 2020 school year will have to be carried over to 2021.

Motshekga says the calendar for next year will be markedly different as they integrate the 2021 curriculum.

“That’s why we are saying for this year, let’s look at foundational skills we need for the next grade. So, what we have done with the curriculum for internal grades is we count the time that we are losing and integrating to 2021 and we change the calendar in 2021. So, we have accepted that we will not get all we bargained for in 2020. It’s not possible to integrate to 2021.”

Motshekga also responded to teacher unions’ concern about the recruitment of teachers saying that it is well under way.

“We are looking at all the databases we have of qualified unemployed teachers see how many of them are still available, Gauteng is already taking some of them. Western Cape is employing them, not for now, when we start taking in more grades.”

She was visiting some schools in Midrand north of Johannesburg to assess the first day of schooling for Grades 6 and 11. While the schools Motshekga visited seemed ready, there were problems in other parts of Gauteng. In Pretoria, some schools were turning back learners.

In North West, police have had to intervene in a planned shutdown of Gaopalelwe high school in Boitumelong township:

At Amogelang Secondary school, grade 11 learners could not be received as the school is still preparing for their return. The school is hoping to welcome them back on Tuesday. But this learner is not convinced that the school is ready to welcome back other grades.

“I’m not fine, I’m not happy. They are not taking care of our classrooms, they sanitise outside, not inside the classrooms. It’s dirty. Our school is not clean. It’s not suitable for us to come”.

Learners from Lamontville in Durban were also turned back.

“I don’t think we are safe because we were turned away from school they said that they did not have PPEs so we should come back tomorrow and even tomorrow I’m not even sure that we will get those PPEs so even tomorrow I’m not sure if we will even go into classroom … Classes were still closed because they said that it’s not safe for us to return to school because the classes were not cleaned and they were not ready for us to return to school.”

Motshekga said she was surprised that learners were being turned back saying only three provinces, the North West, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape had indicated that they would delay the phasing in of the two grades.

She also said that parents had not opted for homeschooling despite the anxiety around sending their children back to school. Motshekga also flagged that dropout rates might spike this year.

Northern Cape parents worried children run the risk of contracting coronavirus: