On Wednesday, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) responded to the call from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) for the immediate closure of schools saying schools will remain open.
The statement emphasised that any decisions regarding the operation of schools will be taken by Cabinet. The department raised concerns over members of the education sector who have criticised the reopening of schools. The DBE says that this decision was made taking into account the feedback from science, health and education experts as well as empirical findings from other countries.
One of the motivations the DBE provides for the reopening of schools, is that many children from rural areas who are enrolled at quintiles 1-3 schools, could not access any online learning.
“This, inadvertently negatively affected these children’s unfettered right to basic education. It is particularly the poor who continue to be at risk if schools do not reopen,” the statement reads.
Furthermore, the Department says that schools were reopened to allow learners access to school nutrition programmes. They reported that many learners had little to no access to meals and are now able to access meals through the programme. The programme has also been extended to learners who have not returned to school yet and food parcels have reportedly been arranged for learners to fetch from the school nearest to them.
The DBE says Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is currently participating in consultations with various stakeholders to discuss how the Department will be affected by the peak of Covid-19 infections. These consultations are set to be concluded by the end of this week.