Schools might reopen in June except those in ‘hot spots’

Education officials say virus hot spots still too risky for kids

More than 5,000 schools could not reopen next month. Image: Gallo Images/ IStock
More than 5,000 schools in Covid-19 hot spots across SA, including 929 private schools, will stay shut next month if the cabinet approves a new proposal by the basic education department.

The Sunday Times can reveal exclusively that the department wants schools in Buffalo City, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Mangaung and Nelson Mandela Bay to be regarded as being on lockdown level 5 when others around the country begin reopening on June 1.

Keeping these schools shut would affect 3.7-million pupils and 134,779 teachers.

The proposal – discussed on Wednesday with the National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (Naisa), which represents nine private schools’ associations – is expected to be unveiled when basic education minister Angie Motshekga briefs the media tomorrow about how ready the provinces are to reopen schools.

The document outlining the department’s proposals, which the Sunday Times has seen, suggests that all 157,123 matric pupils in hot-spot areas “be accommodated in grade 12 special camps”.

Schools in areas where Covid-19 infections are lower will be listed under lockdown level 3, and grades 7 and 12 will resume on June 1, with grades R to 7 and grade 11 expected to return on a staggered basis. Pupils in the remaining grades will return once lockdown level 2 begins.

The proposal says that under level 3, the school timetable could be rearranged to “accommodate different grades attending school on alternate days as well as platooning/shift arrangements to comply with social distancing”.

Provinces ‘need more time’ on the reopening of schools, verdict due after Monday

The unions will meet Motshekga tomorrow for a progress report on the readiness of the provinces.

Naisa chair Mandla Mthembu confirmed that the alliance met on Wednesday with the department’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, but expressed surprise that the department’s proposal had been leaked.

Mthembu said when Naisa’s nine-member organisations met on Friday, concern was expressed about the 929 schools that may not reopen on June 1.

“Our concern is that there’s a blanket approach to say all schools in those municipalities must not open. If schools are located in the red zone but in wards that may be viewed as level 4 or level 3, they should be allowed to open.”

He said that during the meeting with Mweli, they were told no private school should open before June 1.

By Prega Govender – TimesLIVE

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