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Only three grades to return to school on Monday

The department of basic education says only three grades will return to school on Monday. The grades are six, 11 and R. The other grades that were also supposed to return on Monday will be phased in during the month of July. 

Currently, only grade seven and 12 learners, who went back to school last month, are attending school. 

In a Government Gazette last month, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said grades R, one, two , three, six, 10, 11 and schools for children with special needs would open on July 6. 

However, in a statement on Thursday afternoon, the department said that after a meeting of the Council of Ministers, and after “careful consideration”, it was decided that for now only three grades must return. The council comprises the minister, deputy minister, director general, and all the MECs and heads of departments. 

The department said the meeting had considered a number of reports presented to it. These included reports that looked at how to register and support learners with comorbidities; the turnaround time for dealing with comorbidities, examinations and assessment in a Covid-19 environment; and registering and supporting learners whose parents elect to keep them at home, but are not not currently registered for home education.  

The department said the decision affects all provinces. 

It added that its phased reopening of schools will also take into account the rising numbers of community transmission throughout the country. 

“We recognise that schools are based in communities and learners live in the same affected communities and, therefore, a careful balancing act must be maintained,” reads the statement.  

Situation in the Eastern Cape 

On Tuesday, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane said 200 schools in that province had shut down because they have been affected by Covid-19. On Wednesday, the Eastern Cape department of education said eight teachers, three learners and four non-teaching staff had died from the coronavirus. 

The Daily Dispatch also reported this week that the Eastern Cape superintendent general, Themba Kojane, had written to Motshekga asking that the province’s schools be allowed to open only to grade 12 learners, and that the rest of the learners return in August. This move would include the grade seven learners, who are already meant to be at school. 

The provincial department made this request because it feared that it would not be able to manage the cases of Covid-19 in its schools when many learners returned. If they come back in August this would give the department time to plan properly. 

On Wednesday evening, the North West department of education said that, in the space of three days — between Monday and Wednesday — it had recorded 64 cases of Covid-19 in its schools. It said that some of the people had contracted the virus outside schools. 

On Thursday, the Gauteng department of education said 589 schools in the province are affected by Covid-19, and that 71 of these schools were closed. The department said 184 learners and 428 teachers have tested positive. 

In its statement, the basic education department said it hoped that by August schools would have returned to normality. Grades four, five, eight and nine and other groups of learners from special education needs schools are expected back at school on August 3. 

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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