Thursday, 14 May 2020

Pretoria: The Basic Education Department (DBE) has postponed a briefing that was set to outline the phased approach to the reopening of schools amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

The briefing, which was expected to outline proposed dates for the reopening of schools, was scheduled to take place today, 14 May 2020.

The briefing, has been moved to Monday, said the department in a statement.

According to the DBE, the postponement is, to allow for further consultation with stakeholders in the education sector.

This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday announced that government is considering a proposal to move the country to level 3 of the national COVID-19 lockdown by the end of May.

The department said the President’s address will assist with its planning.

“The Minister will address a media briefing after receiving full reports from all provinces on the readiness to open schools. We appeal for patience as we work to find the best way forward under the circumstances,” said the department’s Director-General Mathanzima Mweli.

Mweli said the department will convene a special meeting of the heads of education departments from all provinces. Minister Angie Motshekga will  meet with MECs on Monday to discuss progress made.

“Thereafter we will [make an] announcement to the public. Nobody has experience in managing a crisis of this magnitude, so we follow expert advice. That is why we need to be extremely careful how we proceed in every step,” he said.

Ahead of Monday’s address, Motshekga will also convene a special meeting of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) to consider progress made towards the reopening of schools.

The purpose of the meeting will be to consider the work done by provinces this week, including taking delivery of COVID-19 essentials required as preconditions for the reopening of schools.

Provincial readiness

In a meeting held on Monday, provinces reported that they were at various stages of readiness and they requested more time as they waited for deliveries of personal protection equipment from the supplier.

“We agreed in our meeting on Monday that one week is needed to finalise outstanding [deliveries]. So on Monday, 18 May, we will reconvene to consider progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness.”

“A lot of work has happened and we are happy with the progress reported in the last meeting but we need confirmation of deliveries that provinces were waiting for,” said the Minister.

She said the delays in the deliverables were attributed to challenges with the supplier of personal protective equipment (PPEs) which resulted in the cancellation of contracts.

Various provinces had to find new suppliers to deliver the material this week.

“In the meeting on Monday, we will receive a full report which we can then share with the public. We will also use the meeting to table President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address which is also important for our planning purposes,” she said.

The reopening of schools, said the department, is based on three factors:

  • Saving lives remain the overriding consideration.
  • Saving the academic year is crucial.
  • Risk assessment and mitigation as well as monitoring and evaluation are important safeguards of the plan.

The Minister’s scheduled address on Monday will follow the meeting of the Council of Education Ministers.