Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has announced that 95% of schools have reached the necessary levels of sanitation and “Covid-19 related imperatives” to reopen tomorrow.
During her briefing on the readiness off schools to reopen in the coming week, Motshekga said the focus would now be on ensuring the remaining 5% were assisted in ensuring they could also meet the requirements to reopen.
According to the latest figures announced, the number of provinces which were classified as low risk improved from two to six provinces.
The number of provinces classified as showing medium risk levels, has improved from the seven which were classified as medium risk (4) and high risk (3) on 30 May, to three provinces.
The variances among provinces were attributed to a variety of factors, “including but not limited to vandalism in 1,672 schools; interfering with the deliveries of essentials to schools; induction and orientation of educators and support staff, water and sanitation not yet provided to some schools, faulty thermometers…”
Motshekga stressed that no school would be allowed to reopen without meeting all the requirements, and conceded that one of the biggest challenges was that of sanitation.
“The golden rule is, there will be no school that will resume, if not ready to do so,” said Motshekga.
She stressed that though that “no learner will be left behind” on reopening.
“For the remaining 5% or so, learners’ alternative measures have been developed by different districts such as temporarily using neighbouring schools, using underutilised spaces in boarding schools and putting other learners in camps. Because some of the alternatives need consultations with parents, provinces will be engaging parents and following the appropriate protocols to get parental concessions.”
She detailed the continued focus on ensuring the rollout of measures to bring schools up to standard.
“We have solicited the support and assistance of the South African National Defence, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), and Mvula Trust to collaborate with the department, provinces and Rand Water to accelerate the provision of water and sanitation in outstanding schools.
“We are cooperating with the department of transport to ensure that learner transport provided, does meet the health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements on Covid-19. This will include scholar transport for learners with special education needs.
We are continuing to work with the departments of health and social development to ensure that the health and psychosocial needs of the school communities are met.”
Motshekga also reminded that the updated regulations for the reopening of schools make provision for those parents who are still hesitant to send their children to school tomorrow.
She also said there was a continuing process to revise the 2020 school calendar, in order to accommodate the “peculiarities brought by the novel Covid-19 pandemic”.
They have also formulated plans to deal with comorbidities among educators, and an agreement with unions is nearly complete. This will include standard operating procedures which will be circulated among schools to “ensure that schools are able to manage identified infections among educators, learners, educators and support staff.”
“Where practicably possible, learners from the ‘not-so-ready schools’, will be moved to neighbouring schools that meet the health, safety and social distancing set measures and requirements. The teaching and learning programmes provided online will continue; and parents who are uneasy to send their children back to school, must follow the law to ensure that their children’s right to basic education is unhindered.”
Rand Water, which has been appointed as the implementing agent to provide schools with emergency water supply, through filling tanks and procuring tanks where necessary, said they had a delivery target 2,634 tanks.
Not all these schools were without water, but some only needed augmentation of existing storage capacity. 2,443 of these storage tanks have been supplied thus far, according to Rand Water CEO Sipho Mosai.
Mosai conceded that this was not the most cost-effective approach to supplying sanitation to schools, but said there will also be a focus in future on implementing a more sustainable solution.
Notably, Mosai said Gauteng and the Western Cape were not within Rand Water’s scope in terms of receiving tankers, citing a vandalism issue in Gauteng, but promising that tanks will be supplied in due time.
Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer confirmed that eleven out of their 1,500 schools would not be reopening due to contamination and infections confirmed among staff.
Her Limpopo counterpart, Polly Boshielo, said teams were on the ground in her province the provide schools which still used pit latrines with mobile toilets. School nutrition programmes also seemed set to resume, as supplies were dropped off over the weekend.
104 schools in Kwazulu-Natal are not yet ready, according to MEC Kwazi Mshengu, who attributed this to lack of water.
MEC Bonakele Majuba said 43 schools would not be opening in Mpumalanga, due to water tankers which were still outstanding.
Free State MEC Tate Makgoe said parents and communities played a major role in ensuring the province’s readiness. He said sanitisers, masks, and other necessities have been delivered through these stakeholders’ help, while cleaners and other staff have been appointed to schools.
Each school has also been linked to a primary healthcare team in case of an infection. He did not indicate if there were any schools that would remain closed, simply saying the province was ready for reopening.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the department of health had availed 155 nurses and 52 vehicles available to the province in case of any positive cases at schools. They have also appointed environmental health experts and general practitioners to monitor schools and ensure compliance with social distancing and other regulations.
Lesufi said all schools had received PPE, while the quality of these was being monitored in some cases.
1,800 volunteers have been deployed in Gauteng to help monitor compliance at schools, specifically those in townships.
Of the provinces 2,089 schools, 2,078 are ready to reopen, with the rest suffering problems with vandalism and lack of sanitation. Lesufi said learners at these schools would be reallocated to other schools.
30 schools have had schools with staff members testing positive, and six learners also tested positive at these same schools. 26 of these are private schools, and four were private schools.
The Eastern Cape and Northern Cape MECs were not available to provide their province’ states of readiness.
** This story underwent numerous updates throughout the presentation by Motshekga and the various provincial MECs.