Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has expressed concern for learners who have not returned to school yet, despite schools operating at full capacity under alert level 1 of the lockdown.
"We are concerned that there are learners who have not returned to school yet. In the schools that we have visited, the return rate is between 80% and 90%. While it is encouraging to see the numbers increase gradually, we appeal to parents release their children to return to school," said the Minister.
Motshekga called on parents and communities to support their children as they return to school under the new normal ushered in by COVID-19.
"The rotation or platooning approach that schools are using means that there are designated days when learners are at school, and other designated days they are not. This again increases the risk of them losing interest, and forgetting critical curriculum topics already covered at school.
"The difficulties in timetabling will be with us for the remainder of the year, as we continue to balance teaching and learning, while saving lives," said the Minister.
Teachers with comorbidities also return to school
Teachers with comorbidities also returned to school following the announcement on 16 September by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country would be going to level 1, effective from 21 September.
In May this year, an agreement was reached at the Education Labour Relations Council that in lockdown level 3 and 2, teachers with comorbidities would be granted concessions to work from home.
The effect of that announcement was that the Collective Agreement with the unions, which allowed teachers with comorbidities to work from home under lockdown level 3 and 2, ceased to exist.
"Provinces have reported that all teachers have gone back to work, except those teachers who are on maternity or sick leave. We thank each and every one of our teachers for heeding the call to return to school. Health and safety measures remain in place and everybody is expected to comply, as we work to finish the work for the 2020 academic year," said the Minister.
Learner support interventions
To support matric learners who returned to school since the first week of June and only had a week's break in July, the department implemented various support initiatives.
Provinces put in a place a whole range of measures to support the learners, including Saturday and Sunday classes.
In addition to the extra classes provided at schools, the department also launched Woza Matrics, in collaboration with the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT). This is an initiative designed to provide additional support to the Matric Class of 2020, as they prepare for the 2020 National Senior Certificate examination. We thank all the partners involved in the initiative.
"We are really grateful for the commitment, dedication and sacrifice demonstrated by our educators in every province," said Motshekga.
With the country having moved to alert level 1, the department proposed the resumption of non-contact sport training and physical activities in schools, subject to compliance with measures to prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19.
The department is set to gazette new directions on the resumption of non-contact sport once it concludes its processes.