Schools in Cape Town

South Africa: Western Cape schools ready to welcome pupils today

The Western Cape will open its doors to learners today contrary to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s decision last night that they only report back on June 8.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) issued a statement last night that only 80% of schools were ready to receive learners. The statement followed the 11th-hour cancellation of a much-anticipated live update by Motshekga on school readiness yesterday.

“The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) received a report from the consortium of service providers co-ordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust on the External Evaluation and Monitoring of the state of readiness.

Rand Water, as an Implementing Agent delivering water to 3500 schools, also presented its report. “The Heads of Education Departments Committee also presented its technical report.

All three reports converged on the fact that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening tomorrow (today), albeit tremendous progress had been made by most provinces, which overall reflected an 80% state of readiness.

“This whole coming week must be used for the proper orientation and training of teachers, the mopping and ramping of all supply chain matters, and final touches to the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners. “The date on which all learners have to report back to school is June 8, 2020,” the department said.

However, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said Western Cape schools were “overwhelmingly ready”, including those that serve poor communities.

“We have been engaged in discussions at a national level over the weekend, and were awaiting the minister’s announcement that was scheduled for 6pm this evening (yesterday).

Given that this has now been postponed until tomorrow (today), we can no longer allow our schools to hover in a state of uncertainty.

“Learners have already begun to arrive at school hostels, and parents have made preparations to take their children to school tomorrow (today).

“School staff and WCED officials have been working around the clock to ensure that all plans are in place to receive those learners on time.

“Given these preparations, and the enormous effort put in by teachers and non-teaching staff alike, it would be unfair to delay all schools from reopening,” she said.

Schäfer said there would also be some schools that do not receive learners today, either because they were not at a suitable state of readiness in terms of safety protocols, or they were closed for cleaning if there had been a confirmed case of Covid-19 at the school.

“The week will be used primarily for the orientation of learners into the new Covid-19 safety and learning environment.

There are also outstanding issues that need to be finalised over the coming week – including confirming a position on home-schooling options – but these will not prevent the majority of our Grade 7s and 12s from returning,” she said.

Teacher unions called Motshekga’s previous decision to have schools reopen today a “mistake”. Grade 7s and 12s were expected back today in a national phased reopening of schools.

In a joint statement, Sadtu, Naptosa, the SAOU, PEU and Natu called on Motshekga to retract her announcement. They also called on their members to stay home.

Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said last night that schools with all the personal protective equipment for staff may continue planning and preparing, but the schooling system was not ready for learners.