Calls grow for schools reopening to be postponed ahead of Motshekga’s address

As concerns grow around the reopening of schools, it appears the beginning of the 2021 academic calendar for those in the public education system may be delayed.

FILE: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga at a briefing on 1 June 2020. Picture GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG – The country can expect some clarity on school reopening plans on when the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to brief the nation on Friday.

Educators have had a particularly hard time during this COVID-19 pandemic, with 1,600 succumbing to the virus in recent months.

And there's been growing unease about heading back to school as planned in the midst of a fierce second wave of infections.

As concerns grow around the reopening of schools, it appears the beginning of the 2021 academic calendar for those in the public education system may be delayed.

READ: Trade unions to DBE: Be prepared for when schools reopen amid pandemic

The Department of Basic Education is expected to make proposals to the national coronavirus command council after meeting with unions and other role players in the sector on Wednesday.

Teacher unions want the re-opening of schools, which has been set for 27 January, to be postponed.

National Professional Teacher's Organisation of South Africa’s Basil Manuel said they supported any proposal to push back the reopening of schools, at least until coronavirus infections subside.

“That is the recommendation that has gone off to the NCCC and we will get a specific date or reopening from them.”

READ: Naptosa vows to closely monitor schools amid COVID-19 second wave

South African Democratic Teachers Unio’s Mugwena Maluleke said it was important that the sector be informed by science.

“Science tells us that the numbers are not very good the reopening of schools.”

Meanwhile, the University of Johannesburg’s professor Carin Runciman said reopening schools at this time could further increase transmissions.

“It is very similar to the situation we faced in July last year, where cases were very high.”

A survey released by the University’s Centre for Social Change in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council found that 53% of adults believe schools should remain closed until the situation improves.

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