Following the postponed reopening of schools to 8 June 2020, schools around the country are set to use the first week of June to induct and orientate teachers on the COVID-19 school environment, and to ensure the readiness of each facility for the arrival of learners.
On Sunday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga took a decision to delay the reopening of schools by a week, following a series of consultations with stakeholders in the education sector.
The decision was taken following the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) meeting on Saturday to assess the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.
"I really wish to apologise wholeheartedly for the inconvenience that was caused yesterday, but it was beyond my control because I had to make sure that all key stakeholders are informed on time, so that they can mitigate all the challenges that have been brought by the decision that we took very late on Saturday," said the Minister at a media briefing on Monday.
At the meeting, the CEM received a report from the consortium of service providers, coordinated 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 3 500 schools, also presented its report.
The Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) also presented its technical report.
All three reports indicated that a substantial number of schools would not be ready for the reopening on Monday, 1 June, as previously announced by the department.
"Based on these reports, it became clear that the sector was at different levels of readiness... [Schools may] only open if [they] meet the health requirements to the fullest.
"The reports confirmed that [schools] were not all on the same level and in the main, it was for this reason that the CEM determined that the sector requires more time to mop up its state of readiness for schools reopening," said the Minister.
While personal protective equipment deliveries were available for the school management teachers, the CEM was concerned that in some provinces, PPEs for learners, in particular, had not been received.
Curriculum trimming and reorganisation
Motshekga said reorganising the school curriculum has proven challenging.
"We have lost a whole term and are likely to lose more days due to Coronavirus. We had to be innovative in the manner in which we get the school programme back on track.
"In order to recoup the teaching and learning time lost, the schooling system had to be re-engineered - resulting in the adjustment of the timetables and the review of the curriculum, in terms of the National Education Policy Act, which empowers me, as the Minister, to determine a national policy for the curriculum framework, core syllabuses and education programme."
She said a curriculum work stream, consisting of curriculum experts from the department and from outside the department, is continuously managing this aspect of the re-engineering of the curriculum.
"The provinces are now putting their shoulder to the wheel to ensure that all prerequisites not yet fulfilled will be delivered within week one of June.
"Together with our partners, we have agreed to another meeting on Thursday to continue to monitor and evaluate all outstanding compliance imperatives."
Rand Water addresses water supply
On water supply to schools, Rand Water Stakeholder Relations Manager, Teboho Joala, said there is a lack of adequate supply of water to schools across the country.
Joala said six of the nine provinces require water and sanitation infrastructure.
It became apparent the six out of nine provinces have not met the requirement of water supply on the school premises.
"The number of schools affected is 3 126. This is what our scope will cover.
"There are two types of schools we are dealing with. There are schools that have water tanks, but are a bit far from the water source. We have 2 634 schools, which do not have water tanks or reticulation, and a decent and continuous supply of water," said Joala.
The provincial breakdown of schools without adequate water supply are 756 in the Eastern Cape, Free State 87, KwaZulu-Natal 1 125, Limpopo 475, North West 248 and Mpumalanga 435.
"We are now setting up temporary establishments because we are doing it in two folds. We won't wait until we build the whole stand that is bricks and mortar based. We will have a temporary installation and then the second phase will be to build some plinths," Joala said.