Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS

About 95% of schools throughout the country are ready to receive grade 7 and 12 pupils from Monday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced on Sunday.

This was after a “mop-up” week in which an all-out effort was made to get schools ready to receive pupils. Personal protective equipment (PPE) was obtained, water and sanitation facilities were provided, and schools were sanitised. Teachers and support staff also had to be inducted into the new way of operating under Covid-19.

Motshekga said these efforts had “drastically” improved the situation and there were no longer high-risk provinces.

Schools were declared not ready to start on the initially envisaged return date of June 1 and the opening was postponed by a week to allow schools to prepare themselves. Teacher trade unions protested against the June 1 opening of the schools, which they said were not safe. Five teacher trade unions and associations of school governing bodies “tentatively” supported the opening of schools on Monday.

Motshekga said at a media briefing that alternative arrangements would be made for the pupils of the 5% of schools that were not ready as they would not be allowed to open. They would be accommodated at neighbouring schools or alternative facilities and online teaching would continue.

“No child will be left behind,” the minister said.

About 1.6-million learners, or 13.4% of the total number of school pupils, will return to school on Monday.

Water and sanitation facilities would be provided to schools that did not have them, Motshekga said, adding that negotiations were under way with trade unions on how to deal with teachers with co-morbidities, which made them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 infection.

Motshekga noted that 1,672 schools had been vandalised and there had in some cases been interference with the delivery of goods. The orientation of teachers into the way schools would function under Covid-19 had also not been concluded in all cases.

The five teacher trade unions and the school governing body associations said in a statement on Sunday that they “tentatively” supported the re-opening of schools on Monday but on the condition that no school could open that was not Covid-19 compliant.

This followed a meeting on Saturday with Motshekga, education provincial MECs, provincial heads of departments and other officials to receive reports from the ministry about the Covid-19 readiness of schools to reopen.

They were informed that three of the nine provinces were still experiencing challenges with regard to the delivery of water tanks, which will make the resumption of learning and teaching impossible unless alternative measures were implemented to ensure that all learners received education.

“We are particularly thankful for the extent of PPEs deliveries, the improvement in the number of completed water supply projects and the delivery and improvement of toilet facilities,” the statement said.

The trade unions and school governing body associations stressed there had be an integrated plan to get schools that are not Covid-19 compliant ready in the shortest time. They also called for immediate consultations on a new school calendar and a plan for plan for the sustained supply of Covid-19 consumables.