Schools throughout the country are expected to welcome back millions of learners on Monday with the exception of Grade 5 and 8.

The Basic Education Department says the schooling system is ready to welcome the remainder of the Grades back to school. It says all schools qualify and meet the COVID-19 requirements.

This despite some unions complaining that rural and township schools do not have the necessary personal protective equipment, clean water, additional classes and teachers to cope with the new COVID-19 protocols.

Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are expected to return to school to join Grades 7 and 12. Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga explains:

“The system is ready to receive learners, where there are issues they need to speak to district offices so that their issues can be addressed. Those principals that are complaining they should have already reported to the province what is lacking so that they can get the supplies that they need. In fact, the very reason they went back to school first was to make sure they identify all the issues that they need for them to be able to run. But parents must also play their part and release their children to school wearing their masks.”

Basic Education Department’ spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga:

The Department of Education in Limpopo has encouraged parents who are not willing to send their kids back to school to communicate with individual schools.

The department has concluded a stakeholder meeting over the weekend, where preparations for the reopening of schools were deliberated.

Scores of learners and teachers are expected to resume with the academic year. Most have not reported for school since March.

Spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene says sufficient Personal Protective Equipment was supplied to schools.

“The Limpopo Department of Education is happy to welcome other grades to school most of those returning were last in class in March and that is why it is important that they get introduced to standard operating procedures for the management of COVID-19 in schools. Some learners have already started getting orientation on the new normal and the rest of the week will be used to continue with orientation. For those who are new to the practice, we have stocked enough COVID-19 essentials for learners, teachers and support staff at schools and distribution towards circuit areas has been finalised.”

Parents urged to communicate with schools 

Chuene says they’ll use this week to introduce amended timetables. “This week will also be used to introduce learners to new types of differentiated types of timetables that are in place to ensure that we maintain the required social distancing in schools at all times. Parents who are still opting to keep their children at home for whatever reason are required to inform the school of such a decision.”

Meanwhile, the Professional Educators Union has accused the Basic Education Department of failing to consult unions. PEU says the majority of schools in rural areas still face challenges that persisted during previous levels of the lockdown.

The union’s president Johannes Motona says they are not confident about the readiness of schools.

“It is within the policy that they should consult us so that we can discuss issues that are related to the education of the children. We are not confident because if you can see even at some schools now the issue of social distancing is no longer adhered to. It is a problem because the department is not coming to the party. The department is not assisting schools they are still experiencing problems especially in terms of human resource.”

The Congress of South African Students’ Provincial Chairperson Skhalo Mahladisa, has also voiced concerns about the re-opening of schools, saying the safety of learners has not been prioritised.

Education expert Professor Mary Metcalfe weighs in: 


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NATU claims township and rural schools not ready for learners

The National Teachers’ Union (NATU) says the majority of the township and rural schools are not ready to welcome more learners on Monday.

It says some schools do not have a single mask for the learners who are returning to school. The union says it is opposed to having more learners returning to school.

NATU president Allen Thompson says they are also concerned that there are no additional teachers to replace those who are at home because of comorbidities.

“The majority again of the provinces … they’ve failed dismally to provide the PPEs in schools. We are receiving so many calls from principals worried about how are they going to welcome learners in schools if they do not have even a single mask that has been delivered. Another serious issue is that when learners are returning to schools it will be as if there’s no corona because no additional classes have been delivered in schools because we have classes that are having 80 learners which means that class has to be subdivided,” says Thompson.