Schools in South Africa will reopen in a phased manner from June 1 after a nine-week COVID-19 lockdown, bringing a drastic change in its curriculum and prohibiting extra-curricular activities like sports, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday.
The Minister said that the National Coronavirus Command Council and the Cabinet have approved the reopening of schools from June 1.
The school curricula will also be drastically revised and extra-curricular activities such as sports will be prohibited, Motshekga said.
"Independent and public ordinary schools will open even in the metropolitan areas, Motshekga said, adding that this was subject to every school adhering to the health and safety protocols.
We will start with grades 7 and 12 (respectively the last grade in primary and high schools). The other grades will follow in due course.
All learners, educators and support staff will receive orientation and training at the start of the school reopening," the minister said.
Motshekga said that in addition to these, the Basic Education Sector has psychologists and social workers who have had prior training on counselling and will be able to use their skills to support schools.
A revised school calendar and trimmed curriculum is being developed to make up for the lost time.
It has become clear that the coronavirus has forced us to re-engineer the basic education system. A fundamental review of the system has become necessary if we are to minimise the impact on the sector in the long term.
Schools must be aware that all curriculum enrichment programmes will be put on hold until further notice. School sports will not be permitted as they will increase the chances of infection and undermine our efforts of containing the coronavirus, Motshekga said.
With COVID-19 infections and deaths increasing in South Africa, the country is scheduled to move to level 3 of the five-phase lockdown in a risk-based strategy amid growing calls for the economy to be reopened to counter huge unemployment and poverty in the country due to the pandemic.
Latest figures show 16,433 COVID-19 infections, 7,298 recoveries and 286 deaths in South Africa.
The forced closure of schools to slow down the spread of the coronavirus was a necessary step to take, Motshekga said.
In addition to this, countries around the world have been easing restrictions on economic activity while putting in place measures to contain the spread of the virus. We have had to consider reopening schools under strict conditions as well.
Motshekga also condemned the vandalism that has seen 1,577 schools damaged around the country during the lockdown, with a number of them torched.
This is truly a disturbing trend that will set us back in our efforts of trying to get back the academic programme. We appeal to members of the public to help the police bring the perpetrators to justice," the minister said.
Motshekga confirmed that COVID-19 essentials such as sanitisers, masks, water and sanitation facilities are being delivered to schools in all provinces.
Of course the schools will be cleaned and most are being cleaned as we speak, she said, adding that a consortium of independent monitors have been appointed to assist in the process.
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