Parliament, Tuesday, 1 June 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education today came out in support of the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) decision to fully open primary schools (grades R-7) as from the start of the third term, 26 July 2021.

Committee Chairperson, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said the committee supported the decision for younger learners to return to daily schooling. “We support this decision as long as the DBE can ensure that there is a safe and secure environment to go back to school. I have noticed that there has been regress when the younger ones only have alternative days of schooling,” she said.

The committee today received a presentation from the DBE on the status of school preparedness for a possible Covid-19 3rd wave. The DBE recently gazetted regulations that indicate that primary school learners can return fully at the start of the third term. This will be phase one of the turn to school, phase two would see the daily return of all learners.

The committee heard that at the start of the third term, South Africa may be over the Covid-19 3rd wave. This synchronise with the vaccination of teachers will be important for herd immunity and safer schools.

Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba said the committee noted the loss in learning hours that has already occurred in the 2021 school year, due to the academic year starting later, the majority of learners not attending five days of schooling per week as they were using a rotational system. “This together with the loss of learning hours in 2020, does not bode well for our education system. We know and understand that it is not a South African phenomenon but a world-wide challenge, however we remain concerned,” Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba emphasised.

The committee heard that the DBE has identified the key issues that are most likely to compromise compliance with health protocols and organised it into 14 dashboard indicators. This includes facilities, adequate water, sanitation, basic sanitation and hygiene packages, special schools, number of infrared thermometers, learner transport, school nutrition programme, the number of screeners, provision of Covid-19 essentials, psychosocial support to Learners and staff, quality of learning and teaching campaign (QLTC) and communication.

The Minister of the DBE, Ms Angie Motshekga, informed the committee that the DBE decisions on the return to school is done in consultation with the Department of Health (DOH). She said should the DOH advise otherwise if the possible 3rd wave hits the country, the DBE will reconsider and revise its position regarding the daily return of learners.

Regarding the Grade 12 class of 2021, the Minister said education authorities will try to keep these learners in school for as long as possible, in order to try to cover the gaps. They are grade 11s of 2020 and already the whole curriculum was not covered. They lost close to 60% of school time over the period, Minister Motshekga said.

The committee heard that the DBE is also in consultation with the South African Weather Services regarding the winter period the country finds itself in, which tends to lead to more people contracting colds and flu. Most parts of the country will have above-normal rainfalls with above average minimum and maximum temperature expected.

The DBE informed the committee that it will, on a weekly basis, track progress each province is making and that good practices identified during weekly one-on-one virtual meetings with the provinces, will be shared with all the provinces.


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