BASIC EDUCATION SECTOR RECOVERY PLANS FOR THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS

This is part of the statement from Mrs Angie Motshekga today 30 April 2020
For the full text visit: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/2020/04/30/statement-by-the-minister-of-basic-education-mrs-angie-motshekga-mp-on-the-basic-education-sector-recovery-plans-for-the-reopening-of-schools/

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF BASIC EDUCATION, MRS ANGIE MOTSHEKGA. MP ON THE BASIC EDUCATION SECTOR RECOVERY PLANS FOR THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS  -  Apr 30th, 2020

 May/June Matric Rewrite

We have taken a decision to postpone the May/June Matric rewrite examinations. The exams were due to be written by more than three hundred and fifty thousand (350 000), mainly part-time candidates, from the 04 May and conclude on 26 June 2020.

The examinations will therefore, be merged with the November examinations. A new time-table for the merged examinations will be communicated urgently, as part of preparing the system for the biggest matric examination ever seen in the country. We estimate that one million and one-hundred thousand candidates, will sit for the end-of-year matric examinations in this merged format, which includes the Amended Senior Certificate and National Senior Certificate.

 

The Recovery Plan

In the past weeks, we have worked with provinces to prepare for the reopening of schools.

Each province, district, circuit and school, must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented. The plans must talk to the risk profiles of the areas in which schools are located, and this must be based on the infection rate in the specific geographic areas.

The decisions that are taken, are based on scientific considerations. We have been advised to adopt a phased approach in the reopening of schools. Uppermost in our planning, is the health and safety of our school communities – particularly learners and teachers.

Standard Operating Procedures for the containment and management of COVID -19
As part of our preparations among other things we have developed Standard Operating Procedures for the containment and management of the Corona Virus for childcare facilities, schools, and school communities. This we did, in consultation with the Department of Health. The Standard Operating Procedures will provide guidelines for all administrators on the steps to be undertaken in order to prevent the spread, and manage cases of COVID-19, including:

  • Guidance for childcare facilities and schools on preventing the spread of the Corona Virus;
  • Role of childcare facilities and schools in responding to the COVID-19;
    • Management of COVD-19 cases in a childcare facility or school;
    • Guidelines for Heads of Departments and Supervisors on COVID-19 – procedures regarding employees;
    • Management and monitoring of absenteeism is schools;
    • Management of learner transport measures;
    • Closure of a unit / component / office / department, if an employee tested positive for COVID-19; and
    • How to clean educational establishments, where there were learners, staff members, or others, with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Pillars of our sector plan

In our case, the CEM agreed on a number of steps that must be taken to ensure that the health and safety of our learners and teachers are not compromised. These measures are contained in the Standard Operating Procedures Booklet, which will be used in all schools.

Social Distancing;

  • Physical distances in classrooms, includes not more than 2 learners sharing desks;
    • No hugging or handshaking;
    • Direct contact must be avoided;
    • Cloth masks to be worn by learners and teachers at all times;
  • No mass public events. All sports matches, choral practices and festivals, eisteddfods are not permitted; and
    • Extra classes should be arranged in small groups that maintain social distancing.

Infrastructure and Furniture:

  • Sanitize classrooms prior to the start of school day;
    • sanitize hands on entering of classrooms;
    • Limit movement of learners between classes; and
    • No clustering of desks in classrooms.

Transport:

  • We are working with the Department of Transport to ensure that buses are sanitized prior to start of all trips;
    • Everybody to sanitize hands on entering of the buses;
    • The distance between learners in the buses must be managed; and
    • The wearing of masks throughout the school day, starting before boarding transport, is compulsory.

Remedial measures

The provincial education departments have identified three thousand five hundred schools that critical water supply challenges. These schools are spread all over the country, except for the Western Cape. The highest numbers of these schools are in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has initiated an Emergency Water Supply programme, through which water tanks will be installed at critical supply points; and portable water will be delivered to these tanks, using water trucks. The DBE will participate in this initiative to get water tanks installed at the identified schools, and to get portable water delivered to these tanks.

Basic hygiene and sanitation package

A basic and essential hygiene and sanitation package has been developed, and provinces are procuring the critical items. These, include cleaning and disinfection materials, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sanitizers, hand-washing soap, gloves, cloth masks and thermometers.

The DBE has developed Guidelines for schools on maintaining hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide recommendations on the proper cleaning, and use of Personal Protective Equipment, based on risk exposure including:

  • Basic principles of infection prevention and control;
    • Risk reduction methods for schools, classrooms, toilets or bathrooms, offices, and food preparation areas;
    • Daily duties of cleaners; and
    • How to use Personal Protective Equipment.

Screening and testing

  • Screening of learners and educators will be done at the reopening of schools, starting with Grades 7 and 12. Temperature checks will be administered; and
    • Learners or staff members who present with raised temperatures, will then be considered for isolation and testing.

On the Reopening of Schools

There are preconditions for the reopening of schools. We have developed a curriculum recovery framework, which is guided by the following principles:

  • Responsiveness to the national COVD-19 programme to ensure that the national regulations, programmes and protocols are strictly adhered to;
    • Inclusion and equity to ensure that all learners, and in particular the most vulnerable, access the planned programme;
    • Targeted approach, taking cognisance of the unique needs of schools, phases and Grades;
    • Size and scope to ensure that the curriculum plans are determined in a flexible way, guided by the size and the scope of the crisis, a short- or long-term lockdown, and the implications that this will have on teaching and learning;
    • Partnerships that promote full participation and ownership of all key stakeholders;
    • Safety and security in order to maintain the safety, the health and the well-being of teachers, learners and support staff;
    • Time management, as the time is of essence in the recovery plan, and a focus on skills, knowledge and values;
    • Nationally coordinated approach, through which, the DBE will provide clear directives of what is expected of each provincial education departments, followed by strict monitoring of compliance to the given directives.

On the revised School Calendar

As I had indicated earlier the CEM was not rigid in looking about the reopening date. In our school readiness plans, we needed to make sure that they are aligned to the Risk Adjusted Plans, taking into account epicenters of the spread of the Corona Virus in the different provinces and the Metros.

The original school calendar year, started on 15 January 2020, and would have ended on 04 December 2020.

This morning the National Coronavirus Command Council approved that the School Calendar for 2020 be adjusted as follows;

(1) Office-based staff to return to work on 4th May 2020. This is in line with the directive from the Department of Public Service and Administration.
(2) School Management Teams should return to work on the
11th May 2020. This, we have done to ensure that the School Management Teams prepare the schools prior to return of learners.
(3) Teachers return to work on 18 May 2020 and then
(4) Grade 12 and 7 learners go back to school on the 1st of June 2020.
As I said earlier the plan to have officials in the schools to receive the material that is required for the safety measures but also to prepare the school for learning and teaching under the new conditions.

 

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