President Cyril Ramaphosa says there needs to be transparency about the level of preparedness of each school as grade 7 and matric pupils prepare to go back to school after almost three months at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As parents, teachers, governing bodies and government, we are in agreement that no school should reopen until all the necessary precautions are in place.”
Ramaphosa was writing in his weekly online newsletter on Monday. “Everyone who is a key role player, be they a parent, a school governing body member, a teacher or a government official, should be able to have the correct information about the state of preparedness of each school.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is safe,” he said.
Ramaphosa’s comments come on the day basic education minister Angie Motshekga is expected to update the media on the reopening of schools.
Schools closed 10 weeks ago as a measure to curb the spread of the virus but there has been dithering about the reopening process, with the reopening date being pushed back a few times.
“In the last few weeks, as we have prepared to return to school, we have had extensive and detailed discussions with all role players in the education sphere. These have guided our approach to this complex and challenging task,” said the president.
He added that in the last few days, several of these stakeholders, including teachers and parents, have expressed concern about the state of readiness in many schools.
“We have heard them, we welcome their contributions and are taking steps to address their concerns as well as proposals. It is understandable that many parents and caregivers have mixed emotions at this time about the reopening of schools,” he said.
Ramaphosa noted that parents want reassurance that the necessary precautions will be in place to adequately protect pupils, adding that “the safety of our youngest citizens from a health and physical perspective is not negotiable. It is our foremost priority.”
He said as the government prepares for the gradual reopening of schools and places of higher learning, education authorities have been hard at work putting the necessary health and safety measures in place and that documentation regarding standard operating procedures have been provided to all schools.
These standard operating procedures cover issues like training and orientation of screeners, timetable realignment and configuring classrooms to meet social distancing requirements.
“We are continuing with the process of delivering personal protective equipment and ensuring the availability of water and sanitation services. Learning, once it commences, will take place under strict conditions with a correctly limited number of learners and students,” said the president.
By Andisiwe Makinana