President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was a priority that the education sector regains the time it lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking during his state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday night, Ramaphosa said: “Of the many hardships our people had to experience last year, schooling disruption placed a huge burden on learners, teachers and families. Despite this, they persevered. It is our priority for this year to regain lost time and improve educational outcomes, from the early years through to high school and post-school education and training.”
In his address, Ramaphosa focused on four priorities for the year, which included defeating the coronavirus, accelerating economic recovery, implementing economic reforms to create sustainable jobs, and fighting corruption and strengthening the state that has been weakened.
“Equally, we need to give attention to issues affecting children including improving school-readiness, ECD [early childhood development] planning and funding, protection against preventable diseases, policy reform around child welfare and reducing violence against children,” he said.
After the first national state of disaster was announced in March last year, students were forced to stay at home, while some continued with their curriculum online.
This year, the school calendar was pushed back two weeks by the second wave of Covid-19. The basic education department has released the school calendar which will give schools 40 weeks to complete the 2021 academic year.
Ramaphosa said the government had approved a project called “SA Connect”, which would roll out broadband to schools, hospitals, police stations and other government facilities.
He said a R100bn infrastructure fund was now in “full operation”, and education facilities would be among the projects that would benefit from it.
“This fund will blend resources from the fiscus with financing from the private sector and developmental institutions. Its approved project pipeline for 2021 is varied and includes the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme, which aims to provide 300,000 student beds,” he said.
The first school term is expected to begin next Monday, February 15, and end on Friday, April 23, while universities are expected to reopen in March.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga was scheduled to brief the media on Sunday regarding the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.
by Amanda Khoza