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Proposed return date for grade 7s, 12s is 1 June - Motshekga

Angie Motshekga said the principles of opening schools at the right time was accepted once all conditions had been met.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gives an update on plans around the 2020 academic year. Picture: YouTube screengrab.

JOHANNESBURG - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the proposed return date for grade 7s and 12s was 1 June.

Motshekga said the date was first subject to Cabinet approval, after which it would be gazetted.

The minister clarified that schooling would not resume on 4 May in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Motshekga said: “The proposed calendar that we are consulting around we are proposing that on 4 May the sector open. We never said kids must go back to school.”

Only senior officials will start working from 4 May to help with preparations, followed by school management from 11 May, and from 18 May, teachers will come in and prepare, according to Motshekga.

Motshekga said this would help the department to better prepare to re-open the school year.

“We must adopt the phased approach,” she said.

CLASSROOMS TO BE SANITISED EVERY DAY

Motshekga said classes would be sanitised every day and learners’ hands would also be sanitised frequently.

Schools with challenges to basic hygiene and water supplies will be prioritised and provided with the shortages they need.

Motshekga said this would determine how the department went about implementing its phase-in plan.

“We won’t allow any school to resume teaching and learning if they don’t meet the health and safety standards.”

Motshekga said the May and June exams had been postponed and would be part of the December exams.

“The exams that were meant to start on 4 May will be merged with the November examinations.”

Motshekga said they had “fruitful” consultations with all teacher unions and relevant stakeholders before reaching the decision.

Motshekga said the principles of opening schools at the right time was accepted once all conditions had been met.

Over 13 million learners are currently in the public and private schooling sector.

ONLINE LEARNING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said the 2020 academic year for higher institutions of learning will resume virtually.

Nzimande said the Department of Higher Education has decided it would not resume with campus class activity during the level 4 lockdown.

This only exemption are final year clinical students under strict measures, to ultimately aid government in its national fight against the novel coronavirus.

“Universities and TVET colleges do not operate in a vacuum but in a historic context.”

“We will be developing and implementing multimodal remote effective learning systems.”

This, according to Nzimande, is to provide reasonable academic support to all higher education learners.

“No single student will be left behind in our strategy in terms of ensuring that we do all we can to complete the 2020 academic year,” Nzimande said.

He said where physical delivery of learning materials were required and where no immediate digital means were ready, the department ensure that students were provided with instructional materials.

For those who had no immediate digital means ready to continue with their studies or may need to have learning material physically delivered to them, Nzimande said the department was finalising the procurement and distribution of devices (laptops) for all students and its connectivity into digital remote learning platforms.

DEEP CLEANING AND SANITISING

According to Nzimande,when students return to campuses, protocols would be in place for the maintenance of physical distance, access to hand sanitisers and protective masks, and continual deep cleaning of facilities.

In addition, reopening will entail the screening/testing of staff and students, with environmental cleaning of campuses and residences. It was also identifying sites for quarantine facilities in or near institutions as may be required.

"We will also be providing mental health support and other forms of support necessary for staff and students throughout."

NSFAS FUNDING WILL CONTINUE

Nzimande said the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Funding would continue for students for the rest of the year.

“The likely extension of the academic year will require additional funding to maintain allowances for students while they complete the academic year. As a Department, we are therefore working with NSFAS, in modelling these costs,” Nzimande said.

NEW PLAN FOR UNIVERSITIES

Nzimande said the 2020 academic year would be reorganised to enable all institutions and their students to complete academic requirements, with the prospects of extending into early 2021 depending on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threat.

He said the completion of the current year and start of the new academic year would be aligned with the plans of the Department of Basic Education in terms of the completion cycle of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, and the release of the NSC results.

“As a result of highly uncertain and fluid social context imposed by the viral threat on every aspect of South African society, it is not possible to determine with any measure of certainty the dates when physical return to campuses for the bulk of our students will be possible,” Nzimande said.

PLANNING FOR TVET COLLEGES

Nzimande said the 2020 academic year would also be restructured in line with the continuity of the lockdown under Level Four (4) national protocols.

“This entails the need to restructure national examinations for the trimester, semester and full-year programmes.”

Nzimande said TVET colleges would have to reorganise the academic year to enable students to complete trimesters one and two for engineering studies, both semesters for business studies, and the full- year NC(V) programmes.

“Trimester three, which should have taken place from August to November 2020, will be deferred to a date to be determined after consultation with stakeholders. This is to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the examinations.”

COLLEGE HOLIDAYS TO BE REDUCED

According to the Department of Higher Education, in attempts to recoup the number of days lost during lockdown, the number of college holidays would be reduced for June and September 2020.

Nzimande further explained: “In this regard, a revised academic calendar will be issued to CET Colleges indicating the increased number of tuition days. We will engage with organised labour in the implementation of these measures.

“Given that the majority of centres operate from schools, our CET academic calendar will be aligned with that of Department of Basic Education.”

Nzimande said he had issued directive to all sector education and training authorities to continue with the payment of learner stipends during the nationwide lockdown period.

ALMOST 18K HEALTHCARE WORKERS TRAINED

Nzimande said that government has set aside for the training for 17,750 frontline health workers, the leadership and membership of trade unions, the shop stewards and other workers who are dealing with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), within the context of COVID-19.

“The training will also cover workers on night duty. In addition, and working with the Department of Social Development, 1,210 unemployed social workers will be recruited and placed on a 12-month internship, to work with our communities to tackle social distress and other psycho-social challenges facing households and communities during this difficult period.”

With continued uncertainty around the reopening of schools amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Nzimande were addressing the nation on Thursday.

Teacher organisation and unions are hoping Motshekga will present a concrete plan that will inspire confidence and ensure all schools are equipped before any learning and teaching can resume.

The department presented a tentative plan in Parliament on Wednesday that may see schools reopen from as early as next month.

WATCH LIVE: Motshekga, Nzimande give update on academic year