South Africa, Johannesburg – Angie Motshekga has promised to increase measures to fight the Covid-19 in schools after the pandemic claimed the lives of almost 1 500 teachers this year. Motshekga made the pledge while detailing her plans ahead of the opening of schools for the 2021 academic year in Pretoria on Thursday.
“Let me also acknowledge that along the way, we lost 1 493 teachers, some of them as a result of COVID-19, we lost workers in schools and officials in circuits, district offices, provincial departments; and who can forget that we also lost the MEC of Education in the Northern Cape, Mack Jack – may their souls rest in eternal peace. We will not forget them. We send our prayerful thoughts to all the families of the dearly departed,” Motshekga said.
She said the Covid-19 pandemic has also brought into sharp focus the need for education authorities to strengthen their psycho-social support services as a sector.
“We managed to reopen schools through the support of other departments and social partners who operate in this space. The psychological impact of the virus will be felt in years to come; we, therefore, need to work hard in this regard,” Motshekga said.
She said the schools would reopen on January 25 for teachers and learners are expected back on January 27. All provinces have finalised admission processes. District offices will be available to assist parents where the need arises.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Basic Education has been monitoring the state of provinces on a weekly basis to ensure that provinces have systems in place to cope under the pandemic; and to provide support, where support is needed, to ensure smooth reopening and running of schools.
“We will maintain the delicate balance of health and safety in schools and also ensure that we plug on gaps for curriculum recovery, which we have been able to complete during the 2020 academic year. Senior managers in the sector under the leadership of the Director-General will be working during the festive season to put final touches to the already existing plan for 2021.
“We have been working with other countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, and Rwanda as well as others from other continents to draw on lessons learned during Covid-19 and preparing for 2021. These engagements have been extremely useful even from the world and continental fora,” Motshekga said.
She said the main focus of monitoring the 2021 school reopening would be to ensure school readiness for the 2021 school calendar year; and that blockages are addressed on time.
The 2021 School Readiness Monitoring, through provincial one-on-one meetings, has focused on the provincial state of readiness in the following areas:
Health and Safety; school admissions; learner drop-out; provision of teachers; provision of LTSMs; curriculum management and assessment; roll-out of information, communication and technologies (ICTs); national school nutrition programme (NSNP); provision of infrastructure, with emphasis on water, sanitation; provision of learner transport; as well as school safety; and psychosocial support.