South Africa: Schools Prepared to Welcome Back Learners

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says educators and schools have been prepared ahead of the reopening of schools on Monday.

During a media briefing on Saturday, the Minister said school management teams and support staff went back to work last Thursday to prepare for the return of learners and teachers.

"Based on the information obtained from provinces, schools are ready to continue to work within the established COVID-19 health protocols, and also to start resuming full school attendance in primary schools from 2 August 2021.

"The sector continues to be committed and at all times, we are ready to maintain a balance between saving lives and livelihoods, while fighting the Coronavirus pandemic," the Minister said.

She said the Director-General is continuing to convene one-on-one meetings with the Heads of the Provincial Education Departments to ensure that there is continuous sharing of experiences and working together.

In 2020, the President announced a R100 billion stimulus package which, among other things, was meant to support job creation.

"As part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme to address the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy and social infrastructure, the Department of Basic Education (DBE), in collaboration with Provincial Education Departments, implemented the Basic Education Employment Initiative, as part of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative.

"The DBE and the Provincial Education Departments were allocated R7 billion, with about R2.4 billion allocated to the saving of posts for teachers employed by school governing bodies (SGBs) and independent schools. From this allocation, 33 549 posts were saved," the Minister said.

Through this programme, the sector employed 200 000 education assistants and 100 000 general school assistants. In total, about 320 000 young people benefitted from the employment opportunities.

School vandalism

Motshekga expressed concern at the vandalism of schools and education centres during the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

In KwaZulu-Natal 137 schools, three education centres, and eight circuit offices were affected by vandalism.

"This is unprecedented, and we are concerned as a sector that much-needed school infrastructure was damaged. This is a serious setback, as the sector is already under pressure to provide appropriate facilities for the schooling system," the Minister said.

She said the province has made arrangements to ensure that all these schools do open on Monday and that teaching and learning continue.

In Gauteng, 43 schools have been vandalised since beginning of the year. Eleven of the cases were reported after schools went on recess on 2 July 2021.

Twenty-nine of the 43 schools have already been repaired and work is underway to finish the others as soon as possible.

"This senseless attack on the education infrastructure leads to the vandalism of ablution blocks and plumbing equipment; destruction of water supplies, including theft of school water tanks; ripping off of electric wires, especially copper cables; ripping school fences; setting alight libraries, textbooks and stationery.

"Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment and the National School Nutrition Programme supplies and equipment were targeted the most. What is saddening is that most schools were left with serious structural damages, which would place the safety of learners and teachers at risk," the Minister said.

She said the education sector is embarking on an integrated campaign to involve school governing bodies, law enforcement agencies, teacher unions, parents, and civil society to ensure the protection of schools.

"Amongst the many strategies agreed upon during our Council of Education Ministers (CEM) meeting, was on mobilising learners, educators, SGBs, teacher unions, community and traditional leaders, including faith-based communities, to safeguard schools.

"As a priority, we agreed on executive roadshows, paying special attention to identified hotspot areas, and to normalise learning environments, once schools reopen," the Minister said.

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