Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 12:28 pm

Parents face another chaotic two weeks ahead as the Department of Education delays schools reopening to 15 February 2021.

On Friday morning, the Department of Basic Education briefed South Africans on the reopening of schools, confirming that schools would only reopen in mid-February.

Some parents will now be forced to make plans for their kids to be looked after while they work, while others will be back to online learning.

While the delay is frustrating, many parents are happy to have final confirmation about the date of schools reopening as the uncertainty has created anxiety in learners and parents.

Durban mom-of-three, Anneline Thomaya is happy to hear that her kids will not have to return to school before mid-February. “I have a 14-year-old, and 10-year-old twins. I would rather have them at home and know they are safe. I don’t want them exposed to others that may have the virus and are asymptomatic. Also, one of my sons is asthmatic and he cannot wear a mask for 6 hours.”

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“I am glad that an official decision has been made and feel safer knowing that children who will be in contact with my child will be at home and as safe from infection as possible. I am still concerned about the children of relatives who will be home from township schools playing in the streets, no masks and more exposed than they would have been at school all while falling behind academically,” says Johannesburg mom, Zethu Sithole.

Durban mom, Andile Mthimkhulu, is also glad that schools are closed for now. “My son’s health is a priority for me. He did so well at school last year despite all the challenges, so I feel he will be able to cope with the year ahead no matter what happens. It is not a mission to look after him as he has set times to do certain things throughout the day. He had already started preparing for the school year and it helps that I bought him a school software with different subjects that he does daily to keep his mind sharp – and keep him occupied of course!”

Others are frustrated by the delay, and expressed their opinions on Twitter:

 

What the Department said:

In minister Angie Motshekga’s absence due to sick leave, Deputy Minister Dr. Reginah Mhlaule stepped in for the briefing. She confirmed that the reopening of both public and private schools will be delayed by a further two weeks.

The subject of schools reopening has been an anxiety-filled one for parents

When we polled readers on Thursday, before the announcement was made, readers shared their thoughts and concerns.

Some are on the fence on this subject, with 20.8 of All4Women readers saying they are undecided about taking their kids back. 26.8 % of parents will wait for the second wave to end, and 27.5 % saying kids should be allowed to go back to school and be kids.

All4Women survey

 

Here is everything you need to know about schools reopening:

When will school reopen in 2021?

Following the first wave of COVID-19, the reopening of schools was moved to 25 January for teachers and 27 January for learners.

The second wave has caused a further delay and now schools can only reopen as per the below dates:

  • 25 January for School Management Teams (SMTs)
  • 1 February for teachers
  • 15 February for learners

What has informed the decision to delay reopening by a further two weeks?

According to Dr. Mhlaule, the Department is working closely with the health division.

The doctor said that the health system is battling to cope with the current wave.

While there is still uncertainty as to whether infections will increase or decrease over the next few weeks, the decision has been made to protect learners and teachers by delaying schools reopening.

“This is important to give the education sector time to observe the virus and plan for the full readiness of schools,” said Dr Mhlaule.

Will this directly affect the reopening of PRIVATE schools?

Private school management bodies were involved in the consultations that took place.

The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA) has agreed to “persuade private schools to follow the current reopening protocol” says the Department.

This means that private schools, if they oblige, will also reopen in February.

Will the PRIVATE schools that are already open shut down?

 

If they agree to follow the current protocol, yes, they will close.

Private schools have their academic calendar and are not forced to follow the same calendar used by public schools. Private school bodies are tasked with “persuading” private schools currently open to shut down again until February.

Will Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD) also close?

Dr. Mhlaule notes that evidence has shown that younger children are the least affected by COVID-19.

However, “we are not well versed in the movement of the new variant.”

The education sector is open, and ECD centres that feel ready to reopen can do so. If not, these centres should follow the same reopening protocol.

Will e-learning platforms be offered?

Dr. Mhlaule noted the different platforms that will continue to be used to offer online learning for learners. The education sector is still struggling in rural areas, especially with connectivity.

Work is being done to ensure that online learning is accessible to as many learners as possible using the internet, radio and television.

Should parents pay school fees for January?

Yes, parents will be obliged to pay January school fees even though learners will not be attending a physical class.

According to Dr. Mhlaule “schools rely on money coming from parents.”

They are encouraged to pay fees because the education sector is open and schools will need these funds to be able to plan properly. She acknowledges that some parents will be unable to pay due to the effects of the virus.

These parents are encouraged to come forward and a plan will be made.

Will Matric results be released on the proposed date?

According to the department, this is a strong “yes”. Marking centres have been affected, with some markers testing positive for COVID-19, while some stepping down due to fear of contracting the virus.

Two death cases have been confirmed of markers affected by COVID-19. However, the department is confident that 23 February remains the date of releasing 2020 matric results.

 

Are you happy with the Department’s decision or are you frustrated with the changes?

 

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