Good afternoon ladies and gentleman
We are addressing you today, more than two months after the national lockdown was introduced by His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa on 27 March 2020. We will recall that the national lockdown was not introduced to grind life in general to a sudden halt, but to reduce the rate of the novel Corona Virus infections in our country.
On Monday, 01 June 2020, at a media briefing in Rustenburg, we informed the South African public that the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) determined that the sector was a different levels of readiness; and required more time to mop-up its state of readiness for school resumption of schooling, in order to comply with the health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements on the Corona Virus.
We informed the public that, based on three critical reports presented to the CEM on 30 May 2020, CEM resolved that –
? Provinces should mop-up the outstanding deliveries of Personal Protective Equipment, as well as the outstanding provision of water and sanitation to the schools;
? The ongoing cleaning of schools, should be accelerated and finalised within the week of 01 June 2020;
? Provinces should finalise the training of screeners, cleaners and volunteers for the national school nutrition programme (NSNP);
? Teachers, whose schools have already received the PPE, will report for work on 01 June 2020, and prioritise the preparation of their schools to deal with the “new normal” brought about by the Corona Virus;
? Teachers and support staff should be inducted and orientated on the new school environment brought about by the COVID-19;
? In return, the teachers should induct, orientate and counsel the learners, who have already arrived at the schools, to deal with the new COVID-19 environments;
? Learners in Grades 7 and 12 should resume schooling with effect from 08 June 2020; and
? Processes related to independent schools, small schools and schools for learners with special education needs, should be managed with the representatives of these sectors.
It is gratifying to mention that indeed Provinces expended their energies to ensure that all prerequisites not yet fulfilled on 30 May 2020, were attended to during the mop-up week from 01 June 2020. Most important to also thank members of the public from different communities who stepped up to assist schools in their areas, the private sector that also made huge contributions to assist, sister departments especially the departments of safety, water and sanitation and the defense force that assisted the department greatly because in some areas good being transported to schools had to be escorted and the current capacity of the department has to be increased by other government departments and entities. Last week, we had agreed with our partners to reconvene on Thursday, 04 June 2020 to continue to monitor and evaluate all outstanding compliance imperatives. CEM met as planned, and the consultation meeting with our Sector partners was held yesterday (Saturday, 06 June 2020). Both meetings agreed that the mop-up has drastically improved the national picture.
The meeting received a joint report from teachers unions, a report from the provincial education heads, Rand water e sou Ghs permissand the national consortium led by the National Education Trust. The NECT and Rand Water will give highlights of their reports and have since sought permissions to put to their reports on our website site
? The number of provinces which were classified as low risk levels improved from two to six provinces.
? The number of provinces classified as showing medium risk levels, has improved from the seven which were classified as medium risk (4) and high risk (3) on 30 May, to three provinces as on 03 June 2020.
? Of course there are varieties among Provinces, which can be attributed to a variety of factors, including but not limited to vandalism in 1 672 schools; interfering with the deliveries of essentials to schools; induction and orientation of educators and support staff, water and sanitation not yet provided to some schools, faulty thermometers, amongst other.
We can now say with confidence that about 95% of our schools have been ably provided with the COVID-19 related imperatives. The Sector, with the assistance of our partners, will strive to deal with the remaining 5% to ensure that the unfettered rights to health, safety and basic education for all South African children are protected. The golden rule is, there will be no school that will resume, if not ready to do so. For the remaining 5% or so learners alternative measures have been developed by different districts such as temporarily using neighboring schools, using underutilized spaces in boarding schools and putting other learners in camps. Because some of the alternatives need consultations with parents, provinces will be engaging parents and following the appropriate protocols to get parental concessions. All of this we agreed should be finalized during the course of the week and recovery programs be implemented.
We have since published the Directions in terms of the Regulations under the Disaster Management Act, 2002 – regarding the reopening of schools, and measures to address, prevent and combat the spread of the Corona Virus in the Basic Education Sector. The Directions, as amended on 01 June 2020, do cater for deviations to the extent necessary, to be applicable to small schools, special schools, as well as independent and private schools. They also cater for instances where parents may choose to keep their children at home fearing that their children could be infected by the COVID-19; or schools may not be ready to resume schooling.
We have solicited the support and assistance of the South African National Defence, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), and Mvula Trust to collaborate with the Department, Provinces and Rand Water to accelerate the provision of water and sanitation in outstanding schools.
We are cooperating with the Department of Transport to ensure that learner transport provided, does meet the health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements on COVID-19. This will include scholar transport for learners with special education needs.
We are continuing to work with the Departments of Health and Social Development to ensure that health and psychosocial needs of the school communities are met.
Fellow South Africans, our migration into Alert Level 3 brought with itself a new set of Regulations; hence for the Basic Education Sector, we supplemented the Regulations with the Directions we published on Friday, 29 May 2020. Because, from the outset, we concede that the Directions cannot be seen as static, we have already published amendments to the Directions on Monday, 01 June 2020 to cover eventualities not anticipation in the first publication.
As we continue our engagements, we will strengthen the Directions to the extent necessary. Other than affirming health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements, the Directions upholds the phased reopening of public and independent schools, starting with Grades 7 and 12 on 01 June 2020; followed by a cluster of Grades on 06 July 2020; and the last cluster of Grades reopening on 03 August 2020. We are in the process of revising the 2020 school calendar year, to accommodate the peculiarities’ brought by the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
We have and will continue to respond to the “new normal” by developing and implementing plans, which include regular and strict internal and external monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. This, includes the reconfiguration of CAPS curriculum, the provision of timetabling options, the roll-out of the school nutrition programme. We have institutionalised internal and external monitoring and evaluation; and we are providing detailed weekly reports to the Heads of Departments Committee (HEDCOM), the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), and to our critical stakeholders, including teacher unions, national school governing bodies associations; and the sector-based stakeholders, including national associations representing independent schools, as well as special schools. Our external monitoring and evaluation is conducted by a consortium of researchers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), that also provide independent weekly reports on the state of readiness and compliance with the measures and requirements determined through the Directions and Regulations on COVID-19.
The challenges related to comorbidities among educators are being attended to. An agreement with organised labour is about to be completed. Standard Operating Procedures will be circulated among schools to ensure that schools are able to manage identified infections among educators, learners, educators and support staff.
Where practicably possible, learners from the “not-so-ready schools”, will be moved to neighbouring schools that meet the health, safety and social distancing set measures and requirements. The teaching and learning programmes provided online will continue; and parents who are uneasy to send their children back to school, must follow the law to ensure that their children’s right to basic education is unhindered.
Today, we have the Members of the Executive responsible for Education present at this media briefing. After the presentations from the consortium of researchers, Rand Water and that from the Heads of Education Departments Committee, the MECs will engage on the state of readiness of schools to resume schooling tomorrow, 08 June 2020.
Fellow South Africans, we wish to conclude by acknowledging the immeasurable and highly appreciated support, guidance and stewardship provided by His Excellency, the President, Cabinet and the National COVID-10 Command Council. The support provided by the Department of Water and Sanitation, Rand Water, the Department of Health, National Treasury; and the recent involvement of the South African National Defence, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Department of Transport, and Mvula Trust is second to none. Their involvement has accelerated our interventions in the provinces, especially the reach to the most rural and remote schools. The resumption of schooling on Monday, 08 June 2020, is now more possible than a week ago.
We must also single out our parents, teachers and learners, who had to patiently endure the ill-effects of the abnormal 2020 school calendar year with us. We can assure you that your anxieties are ours too; we too have spent the sleepless nights you spent. We have done and will continue to do our level best to ensure that our schools are safe. All of us are therefore, called to do whatever we are expected to do, to ensure that our school communities and spaces do not become the new hotspots for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deputy Minister and I, wish to encourage the Director-General, Superintendents-General, officials at the national, provincial, district and circuit levels, to continue doing the good work they have been doing. We have a duty to perform, and we must continue to do it selflessly.
May I now invite the MECs to give accounts on the state of readiness to resume schooling within their respective provinces.
I thank you