The Gauteng Department of Education says it expects 300,000 Grade 7 and 12 pupils back when schools reopen on 1 June.
But, before the reopening can take place, health protocols will have to be met by all schools, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said.
Lesufi was speaking at the province’s weekly Coronavirus Command Council briefing on Thursday.
The MEC said, in order for schools to be ready, it will need to have all the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for pupils, while classrooms need to meet the necessary standards for physical distancing.
Schools will be allocated more than R15,000 to start deep cleaning in preparation for 1 June, after which officials from the district will inspect the premises to observe whether it is ready or not.
The Department of Health will then issue a certificate of occupation, deeming the school clean and safe.
Lesufi said 577 schools were not in a position to do the deep cleaning, which is why Bidvest had donated its services to the schools and would also provide sanitiser dispensers.
“Our approach in Gauteng is as follows: PPEs must arrive first, and the principal will arrive to receive (them). The principal will wait for SMT (school management teams) PPEs. When PPEs for SMT arrive, the principal will then ask SMTs to come back, and when PPEs for learners come, that’s when we will call for learners.
“It’s PPEs first, then resumption of responsibilities. Where there are no PPEs, we are not going to risk educators or learners to come to our school,” the MEC said.
No visitors, one entrance and exit
At least 1,752 schools have been given the capacity to start the process of cleaning. Mobile classrooms have also been procured for schools that were vandalised during the lockdown.
The department has also put in place strict control guidelines in schools, and these include a no visitors approach.
Anyone who may want to visit a school would need to get permission from the district and head office.
All schools must ensure that there is one entrance and exit.
Schools are also expected to be fenced, and strangers will not be allowed to interact with pupils.
Pupils will have to wear masks before entering the premises, and officials will screen and sanitise at the entrance.
Screenings three times a day
The lunch break period will be split between the different classes to avoid overcrowding, and pupils qualifying for the School Nutrition Programme will be catered for.
Classrooms will be marked, and one pupil will occupy each table. No class will have more than 20 pupils.
The department said, while pupils will be provided with at least two masks a week, parents are urged to provide masks on the first day of school.
Once the pupils arrive at school on the first day, they will receive additional masks.
Teachers and pupils will be screened three times a day – on arrival, break, and when they return home.
“Areas out of bounds, playing fields and soccer fields, will be cordoned off immediately with a red tape.”
Youth brigade recruitment
Schools will also have isolation points for pupils showing high temperatures – and will be linked to local clinics for support.
Lesufi said the department was also procuring the services of general practitioners to start their day at schools, monitoring educators and pupils, before heading to their surgeries.
The department is also in the process of recruiting an additional 50 substitute educators to stand in for teachers over 60 and those with comorbidities.
An additional 1,047 vacant posts have been advertised.
Lesufi said the department will also be recruiting 7,000 unemployed youth, called the youth brigade, to assist with physical distancing and screening in schools.
At least 120,000 applications had been received so far, said Lesufi.
Four brigades will be allocated to each school across the province. They will also be visible during scholar transport.
The brigades will be highly vetted and screened before being allocated to schools, Lesufi said.
All scholar transport, including private ones, will be expected to sanitise and also ensure all passengers wear masks.
Lesufi said no overloading will be tolerated.
Schools will be reporting back to districts daily.
The department will also be providing support to pupils who cannot return to school because of underlying diseases or fears.
“It’s not a holiday for those that will be at home. They will be given days when they have to come to collect material for those children because our schools are now open.”
The department assured parents that preparations were being done carefully, and that schools would be safe.
Lesufi said an open day would be made for parents to go to schools and view whether they were safe or not.
The department’s plan would also be made public for comment, he added.