While millions of learners in Grades R, 6 and 11 went back to school across the country on Monday, their peers in the Eastern Cape remained at home.
According to the circular signed on Sunday by Superintendent-General of the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape, Themba Kojana, Grades 3, 6 and 11 will now reopen on 20 July.
This is due to the spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in the province.
Those who will also be going back to school on 20 July are learners from schools of skill's years 2 and 3, those with severe and profound intellectual and severe intellectual disabilities, and autistic learners doing their final year.
Meanwhile, Grade R learners will only return to the classroom on 17 August.
"As indicated before, the Coronavirus pandemic remains a very fluid situation, which is constantly monitored, and which necessitates decisions to be evaluated and reviewed, as the situation changes. The increase in the number of infections has again necessitated the education sector to review its plans for the phasing in of grades," said Kojana in the circular.
Heads of Departments, Council of Education Ministers and Councils of the Departments of Education have considered the decision.
Meanwhile, Grades 4, 9, 10 will reopen on 27 July, while Grades 5 and 8 will open its doors on 3 August and Grades 1 and 2 will go back on 10 August.
Phasing in of grades and teaching
However, according to the circular, schools that have applied and granted permission to accelerate the phasing in of grades may continue to do so.
"Grades that have been accelerated must be retained in school and schools that are ready for the accelerated phasing in of learners and who have not applied may do so."
In addition, all approved exemptions from school attendance remain valid.
Kojana also encouraged teachers to find creative ways to teach despite the financial challenges that many schools face.
"We understand that in communities, principals are the first ones to receive the complaints, and are often expected to provide all the answers. In these difficult circumstances answers are not always readily available, as we all face a very fluid situation, and often rely on answers which are outside of our competencies," he said.
He urged principals to keep working hard.
During a media briefing on Sunday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng provinces recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections for both teachers and learners.
The Minister said 11 teachers, four non-teaching staff and three learners in the Eastern Cape succumbed to COVID-19.
As of Monday, the province remained the third worst hit province with 38 081 cases and has the second-highest fatalities in the country with the death toll of 528.