Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga finally gazetted the regulations governing the recent closure of public schools on Sunday, nearly 10 days after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the measures.  

Schools have been closed since last week Monday following the presidential announcement, but the regulations were only gazetted on the eve of matriculants returning to schools on Monday.

This comes as the DA approached the courts last week to order that Ramaphosa's announcement had no legal effect in the absence of gazetted regulations.

With the new regulations, if all goes ahead as planned for the opening of schools over the next month, it will be the first time that all pupils return to school since the start of SA's lockdown.

The academic year has been thrown on its head as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw a lockdown imposed in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Schools were initially closed for more than two months at the beginning of the lockdown, but reopened to allow pupils back to class in a phased approach.

But as the infection rate soared around the country, the department came under pressure from teacher unions to close schools again until the peak of infections have hit SA.

The peak has only been experienced in the Western Cape, but not yet in the rest of the country where the total infections continue to climb at a rapid rate.

The regulations provide that grade 7 pupils will return to school next week Monday, while the majority of learners will return on August 24.

These grades include Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. Grade 9, 10 and Grade 11 will also return on that day. Grade 5 and grade 8 pupils will return to school on August 31.

This is set to be a major challenge as the returning grades had to be scaled down during the initial opening of schools — which allowed for matrics and grade 7s to return in June — and more learners in July to ensure that schools could cope with the amount of learners returning at the same time.

It was about two weeks after the reduced grades 6, 11 and grade R returned to schools that teacher unions made the call for schools to close.

The regulations came after the department published the new academic calendar at the weekend. It filled in the details of the extension of the academic year into 2021, which was also recently announced by Ramaphosa.

According to the statement released by the department on Saturday there are 163 actual school days for teachers and 156 for learners.

The school year will be completed on December 15 for Grade R to Grade 11 pupils and will not carried over to the first quarter of 2021.

The department said a break in school will be needed to separate the third and fourth terms, which will be one week in October.

The 2020 Grade 12 examinations will be completed by December 15 and the marking concluded on January 22. Results for matric pupils will be released on February 23.

The new school year will commence on January 25 2021 for teachers, and learners will return a few days later, the department said.

mailovichc@businesslive.co.za

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