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Coronavirus – South Africa: Council of Education Ministers (CEM) considers progress on State of Readiness for the Reopening of Schools

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PRETORIA, South Africa, May 26, 2020/ — The Council of Education Ministers met yesterday to consider progress on the reopening of schools. CEM did receive a report on the progress made thus far.

Last week CEM decided that SMT and teachers would return to school as from today (25 May) to finalise preparation ahead of the school reopening on 1 June 2020 for Grade 7 and 12.

Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, said that this week would be dedicated to mopping up and finalizing all outstanding matters before learners return to school. She said CEM also agreed that provinces should intensify the preparation towards 1 June 2020.

Minister Motshekga had said last week that the 25th to 29th May 2020 would be used as a countdown to the reopening of schools. Having adopted the “just-in-time” approach, the focus would be to ensure that all health and safety requirements are prioritized. These include; learner transport, water provision, basic hygiene and sanitation, psycho-social support and the recruitment and appointment of screeners and cleaners.

CEM noted that even though some schools had not yet received their safety material, progress in the cleaning of schools and deliveries of PPEs was taking place. Provinces were continuing to send evidence of the work being done. CEM agreed that by Thursday morning the final report would be received and would indicate further progress made and identify other challenges that needed attention.

While work is being done CEM was also disturbed by the vandalism which was continuing to happen. In KwaZulu-Natal two schools were broken into and the entire consignment was stolen. In Soweto two people were allegedly killed by members of the community after attempting to break into a school where deliveries of COVID-19 essentials had just been made.

“We appeal to members of the community not to take the law into their own hands. Communities must protect schools against vandalism but must ensure at all times that violence does not occur.  We request that the community should rather work with the police to bring suspected perpetrators to justice, “said Minister Motshekga.   

CEM welcomed the appointment of the National Education Collaboration Trust-led consortium to monitor and confirm that all the schools complied with the preconditions for the reopening of schools in the context of the coronavirus environment. 

The consortium will conduct an independent audit of the work provinces are doing as part of the preparation towards the reopening of schools. 

CEM noted the methodology presented and progress made in engaging with the provinces and schools last week. CEM is looking forward to the reports once data is collected. The consortium comprises the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Plus 94 Research, Entsika Consulting and New Leaders Foundation.

The Minister will this week sign directives that address various matters that include the issuing travel permits for education purposes, Grade 12 examinations, safety measures, and mass events in schools.

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