In a briefing by the Ministers of Basic Education and Higher Education, it was announced that teachers could return to work on 18 May with Grade 7 and 12 learners returning to on 1 June. Thereafter remaining grades will be phased in subject to approval of the National Command Council and school readiness.
Measures contained in the action plan are as follows for social distancing;
• Physical distances in classrooms, includes not more than 2 learners sharing desks;
• No hugging or handshaking;
• Direct contact must be avoided;
• Cloth masks to be worn by learners and teachers at all times;
• No mass public events. All sports matches, choral practices and festivals, eisteddfods are not permitted; and
• Extra classes should be arranged in small groups that maintain social distancing.
Infrastructure and Furniture:
• Sanitize classrooms prior to the start of school day;
• sanitize hands on entering of classrooms;
• Limit movement of learners between classes; and
• No clustering of desks in classrooms.
• The national goverment is working with the Department of Transport to ensure that buses are sanitized prior to start of all trips;
• Everybody to sanitize hands on entering of the buses;
• The distance between learners in the buses must be managed; and
• The wearing of masks throughout the school day, starting before boarding transport, is compulsory.
The provincial education departments have identified three thousand five hundred schools that critical water supply challenges. These schools are spread all over the country, except for the Western Cape. The highest numbers of these schools are in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The Department of Water and Sanitation has initiated an Emergency Water Supply programme, through which water tanks will be installed at critical supply points; and portable water will be delivered to these tanks, using water trucks. The DBE will participate in this initiative to get water tanks installed at the identified schools, and to get portable water delivered to these tanks.
Basic hygiene and sanitation package
A basic and essential hygiene and sanitation package has been developed, and provinces are procuring the critical items. These, include cleaning and disinfection materials, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sanitizers, hand-washing soap, gloves, cloth masks and thermometers.
The DBE has developed Guidelines for schools on maintaining hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide recommendations on the proper cleaning, and use of Personal Protective Equipment, based on risk exposure including:
• Basic principles of infection prevention and control;
• Risk reduction methods for schools, classrooms, toilets or bathrooms, offices, and food preparation areas;
• Daily duties of cleaners; and
• How to use Personal Protective Equipment.
Screening and testing
• Screening of learners and educators will be done at the reopening of schools, starting with Grades 7 and 12. Temperature checks will be administered; and
• Learners or staff members who present with raised temperatures, will then be considered for isolation and testing.
The phased-in approach to open schools has raised many eyebrows. Many parents have slammed the possibility of having schools re-open on social media. Some have even suggested that schools be re-opened in 2021 instead.
This is a developing story.