The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is aiming to have the 2022 academic return to normal after “two years of instability”, says Minister Angie Motshekga
“Our preference is to get back to school. To live side-by-side with Covid-19 and just make sure that life goes on,” she told the SABC on Monday.
The minister said pupils in disadvantaged communities lost more than 50% of their schooling in 2021 due to the pandemic.
“In the most impoverished areas, we were teaching up to 40%, which we would have lost [more than] half of the teaching,” she said.
She revealed that the department is also engaging with Cabinet to reduce social distancing in schools. However, Motshekga further said that vaccinations among pupils will have to be increased.
“For this month, January, schools will have to go back the way they are until such time we announce that there are changes, we are working as the department with our provinces to engage with all the other bodies like the health department to say,” she said.
“We need first to reduce the social distancing, but we also need to scale up our vaccination programs. Fortunately, I was told that we are at 80% which is comfortable, we want to have vaccination of older… younger children just to create the safe space.
“Then we will be able to negotiate with health to say we need to reduce from 1,5 to 0,5 which will give us more space and more leeway, so that’s what we plan to do for the first two weeks when Cabinet resume. I had actually started engaging with them before the Omicron came in and created some havoc,” the minister continued.
All children 12-17 years and older are eligible to receive one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, as opposed to the two doses administered to people over 18.
Motskekga added that there is no way her department can continue with rotational classes.
In November 2021, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) urged government to scrap rotational learning system for primary schools.
The SAHRC said it was of the view that the rotational system has “a long-lasting negative impact on learning”, further calling for social distancing to be reduced.
The DBE in July last year published new Covid-19 directions, which revealed its plans to reduce physical distancing in primary schools from 1m to 0.5m, which was met with backlash from a number of teacher unions at the time.
Meanwhile, Motshekga on Tuesday will hold a media briefing on the opening of schools for the 2022 academic year.
Inland schools are set to reopen on Wednesday, while coastal schools will return a week later on 19 January.