Government persists on back to school plans


Date for schools to resume pushed back again, to June 8th.


By Seth Meyer

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY News.


Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga’s plans and announcement for South African pupils to begin returning to schools from the commencement of Level 3 lockdown regulations on June 1st, has sparked a great controversy and debate amidst South Africans, parents, teachers and students especially. The government’s plan is to begin the reopening of schools with the return of Grade 12 and Grade 7 pupils first, these groups being viewed as the absolute priority in the basic education sector.


Minister Motshekga and the Department of Basic Education received huge backlash and outcry from parents and teachers’ unions when presenting the initially proposed date for students to being returning to school, which was subsequently pushed to the 1st of June, in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions from Level 4 to Level 3. With the Department’s D-Day now in the past, citizens have had a chance to take a critical look at how the plan has worked out. After consultation with teacher’s unions and various school representatives, Minister Motshekga abruptly announced on the Sunday evening before schools were set to resume, that the official opening date was to be postponed to the 8th of June. In a briefing with the media, the Minister apologised for the widespread confusion caused amidst parents and teachers and stressed that “any further delays pose a serious threat to the system and the future of the learners”.


The Minister also added on sterner note that “a parent who chooses not to send the learner to school is obliged to apply for home education in terms of the South African School Act. They must familiarise themselves with conditions of home schooling and comply, because even then you have to apply. You can’t just keep your child at home.” This has presented an agonising decision for many South African parents, who fear for sending their child to school in lieu of the very real threat that Covid-19 is still present but cannot commit to home-schooling and worry about the consequences of keeping their child back a year.


The readiness and preparation of schools in the face of the pandemic and the return of students is also in question, with Motshekga stating that “the first week of June must be used towards the delivery of personal protective equipment, disinfecting schools and training of teachers and pupils about the dangers of Covid-19.” A survey conducted in collaboration between teachers’ unions indicated that no more than 55% of principals reported a state of readiness at their schools for the now rescheduled reopening on Monday, June 8th.


Some schools have gone ahead and resumed with the academic year already, but many, many more reportedly seemingly under-equipped and unready to adequately provide for the wellbeing of students in the Covid-19 pandemic.


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