Scientific considerations will determine if schools will reopen: Motshekga

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Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says scientific considerations will determine if and when schools reopen in a phased approach across the country amid Level 4 of the coronavirus lockdown. Level 4 gets underway on Friday.

Grades 7 and 12 could return to school on 1 June if approved.

Motshekga says her department is proposing that school, the sector itself, opens on 4 May so that officials can make preparations for a possible phased-in return of some schooling.

She says this does not mean that they are proposing the opening of schools on 4 May.

Proposed dates below:

Motshekga was addressing a media briefing in Pretoria.

“We are proposing that on the 4th of May, the sector opens and we never said kids must go back to school because the questions that people are asking us are correct questions. We have not received the masks. Is there sanitation? There is no sanitation. Teachers have not been oriented but for us to be ready, we need to open the sector so that the first group of officials go in and prepare all the things. People are raising concerns and very legitimate concerns. We need at least 2-3 weeks to be able to meet those conditions,” says Motshekga.

The minister says a central consideration is that schools do not contribute to the spread of the coronavirus, but also that the academic year is saved. She says the proposed changes to the 2020 academic calendar still need to be approved by Cabinet.

Motshekga has proposed a possible reopening of schools, but only for Grades 7 and 12 on 1 June. Motshekga says adherence to the law is important.

“We have to, by law … as soon as there’s approval by Cabinet, we have to gazette the school calendar. We’re not able to operate with a tentative school calendar. The first cohort – if we’re able to do all the things that we’re supposed to do in May – we’re proposing that with the Grades 7 and Grade 12’s we start in June. It’s a proposal because the NCC wants us to come back to them perhaps around the 18th to tick all the boxes.”

In the video below, the Education Ministers brief the media:

Campuses will remain closed 

Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande addressed the same media briefing in Pretoria saying the main focus is flattening the curve of the coronavirus.

Minister Nzimande says the suspension of campus-based activities at tertiary institutions will continue. However, online classes are expected to continue.

He says only final year medical students will be returning to campus and will also assist with the battle against COVID-19.

“Whatever we do in the post-school education and training sector our responsibility is to lower the infection curve. We must save the academic year, but not at the expense of lives. The academic year must avoid worsening the infection curve. On the 2020 academic year, we have decided not to resume with campus-based academic activities throughout the post-school education and training sector including all universities and TVET colleges both public and private during the Level 4 period which starts tomorrow. The only exception will be the controlled return of final year clinical training students, it’s mainly medical students.”

The graphic below shows LEVEL-4 restrictions :