The Department of Education says it has made significant preparations for when more learners can return to school on July 6.
According to the department, valuable lessons have also been learned from the gradual return of learners so far. Gr. 12 and gr. 7 learners returned to class earlier this month.
Dr. Regniah Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, told parliament that every effort was made to accommodate as many learners as possible next week. The department informed Parliament on Tuesday of its preparations for the further gradual return of learners.
Another group of learners return next week, but the department says no one will be forced to report to the school in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The plans are adaptable in light of the increase in the infection rate in communities. We also have to keep in mind the capacity of the health care system to handle a sudden increase in cases, ”Mathanzima Mweli, director general of the department, told MPs.
The department’s plan entails that only half of the learners are at school at a specific time to ensure social distance enforcement.
Mweli says there are several options for parents who prefer not to send their children back to school at this stage. They can register for homeschooling or enroll children in an online learning program. Mweli says learners can also still be registered with the school, while parents upload and download schoolwork at school.
According to him, schools and parents should work together in time to ensure no child is “left behind”.
Mweli says school nutrition schemes are another reason why schools have been reopened and that through these programs, learners have access to meals they have not had so far during the isolation period. “There was no access to the schemes while the schools were closed. Now we have expanded the program even further to learners who are not yet back at school. We have arranged for them to collect food parcels from school in the future. ”
Covid-19 essentials such as masks, gloves, disposable aprons and detergents and disinfectants were also made available to those running the programs.
“The nutrition schemes for Gr. 7- and gr. 12 learners have already successfully resumed in most provinces. Plans have also been made to provide food to learners who have not yet returned to school. ”
Some of the different possibilities include that food is served to learners at different times, that pre-prepared meals or food parcels can be collected at school, or that food parcels can be collected at other collection points than at school.
Meals for learners who have not yet returned to school are expected to be provided from June 22.
Mweli also denied on Tuesday that some water tanks erected at schools amounted to R170 000 per tank. Social media reports about the significant cost of the tanks had spread like wildfire earlier. He says he has no idea where those allegations came from. According to Mweli, the tanks that appear in the social media messages are not the same type as the department uses.
As part of an agreement with the Department of Water and Sanitation, Rand Water paid Rand R200 million to supply water tanks.
According to Mweli, some of the tankers that have to deliver water to schools have been hijacked by residents who do not have access to water themselves.
“We have great sympathy for the need for water among people, but we urge people to allow water to be delivered to schools so that we can continue to fight the new coronavirus at schools.”
The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, has already addressed the issue with Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa incorporated in an effort to find a solution to the ongoing water problems in many communities.
The parliamentary committees praised the department’s preparations, but also expressed concern about the number of learners and teachers who have already tested positive for Covid-19.
As part of their parliamentary oversight role, the committee members will monitor the situation at schools and ensure that all provisions are adhered to.