The department of basic education (DBE) says 95% of schools are ready to open on June 8, for grades seven and 12.
The 5% that will not open are largely those schools, particularly in rural provinces, which have outstanding water and sanitation challenges.
The department hosted a media briefing today, at which Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was accompanied by MECs of education, who each provided the statistics on the readiness of their province.
Although provinces are adamant they are ready to receive learners tomorrow, a technical report presented by basic education director general Mathanzima Mweli at the briefing showed that some provinces still did not know how many teachers and nonteaching staff have comorbidities; neither did they know the number of teachers and staff who have been trained to work in a Covid-19 environment. Other provinces are yet to find out the number of schools that have received personal protective equipment for learners.
The report presented by Mweli also said 1 960 schools need emergency sanitation. He added that the department expects the delivery of at least two mobile toilets each to these schools will be completed by Wednesday.
By far the greatest share of schools lacking sanitation is in the Eastern Cape, where 1 478 schools need emergency sanitation. In Limpopo 505 schools require immediate temporary sanitation facilities and only 10 have been provided with these so far.
In the Eastern Cape, only 1 904 schools have received cloth masks for learners — out of 5 064 schools in the province.
The report provided the status of schools’ readiness as of Saturday.
Mweli said that in the OR Tambo, Alfredo Nzo and parts of Amathole districts the delivery of protective equipment for learners had been delayed because of local businesses that wanted to benefit from providing the gear. Mweli said this was the reason why the Eastern Cape was lagging behind in this aspect.
The report revealed that Mpumalanga will find out the number of schools that have received masks for learners only tomorrow.
Mpumalanga is also one of the provinces that has challenges with water. Only 18 of the 435 schools that lack water have received water. MEC Bonakele Majuba said water tanks for those schools had been delivered to the province and only needed to find their way to the schools.
Rand Water chief executive Sipho Mosai said 2 443 of the 2 634 schools nationally that specifically need water tanks had received them.
Mosai said the difficult terrain and distances between schools in some of the provinces has led to the delay in providing the schools with water.
Some provinces have also not appointed screeners. According to the report, the North West will learn only on Monday how many schools have received guidelines, manuals and protocols for school screening, as well as whether screeners have been appointed.
Last Sunday, Motshekga postponed the opening of schools from June 1 to June 8, saying that reports she had received had indicated that some schools were not ready, because they still did not have all Covid-19 essentials in place. She added that provinces were to use this past week to mop up.
At the press briefing this Sunday evening, the minister said that, after a meeting with all MECs on Saturday, as well as other partners in the sector, a conclusion had been reached that schools were now ready to open.
However, she still maintained that no school should open if it is not compliant. “The golden rule is, there will be no school that will resume, if not ready to do so.”
She said that for learners from the 5% schools that are not ready to open, alternative measures will be developed, which include accommodating those learners at neighbouring schools or putting them in special learning camps.
On Sunday afternoon, five teachers unions and governing bodies released a joint statement saying they supported the reopening of schools. In the past weeks, the unions have been adamant that schools were not ready to open and that Motshekga was being fed “vague” information by provinces.
“The unions and SGB [school governing body] associations consequently support the call to reopen schools … with the clear understanding that no school may open that is not Covid-19 compliant as per directive of the minister and state president,” the statement said.