Although there hasn’t been an official department of basic education announcement on the reopening of schools, a leaked post-lockdown recovery draft plan has revealed a phased-in resumption of the school year from 6 May, according to pupils’ grades.
News24 has seen the draft plan, which contains the basic education department logo and the heading “Phasing in Approach”, and it indicates that pupils in Grades 12 and 7 could return on 6 May, followed by Grades 11 and 6 on 20 May.
Grades 10 and 5 then follow on 3 June, Grades 9 and 4 on 17 June, and Grades 8 and 3 on 1 July.
Grades 2, 1 and R might return last on 8 and 15 July.
In a written response to journalists’ questions, the education department said it was not in a position to elaborate because plans were still being ironed out.
“The schools will return in phases but the details will be announced by the minister of basic education in due course,” it said.
The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) says the document is an unofficial draft plan which still needs to be approved by the Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the department of health and the Cabinet.
“It is a plan at this moment and not the plan because everything in that can change if the department of health says no,” Fedsas chief executive Paul Colditz said.
Colditz said the federation was part of engagements with senior officials from the department and agreed with the phased-in approach.
“The president himself, when he extended the lockdown said that … unlocking the country would be a phase process because of the potential of increased infections if you suddenly release all the sectors to operate as they did before lockdown,” he said.
Various teachers’ unions have also reportedly been involved in the discussions to ensure the process meets the interests of everyone involved in the system.
Executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) Basil Manuel said they supported the draft plan, but were concerned about the date lapses of the different grades.
“If you look at the draft plan circulating, you will see that the last group returns in July, which is three months from now. And that, for us, is far too long but we [are] willing to hear what the rationale is.
“We are not convinced the gap from one group to the next is necessary,” Manuel said.
He said it was important the department and all stakeholders involved applied their minds to discussions about which grades should return first.
Naptosa did not believe grade one should be the last to return because they were in the foundation phase of learning to read and write.
“The grade ones have lost everything they learned in first term. The break has been too long for them.
“Remember, schooling is not only about book learning and writing [but] it’s also a socialisation issue and so grade ones lose socialisation quicker than others.
“These are all the debates that still need to happen.”
While discussions were still underway, the union was of the view that those in Grade 9 should also return earlier because they needed to make subject choices before they reached Grade 10.
“We must apply our minds as to why this group and not that group. We must look at what is the critical phase and the exit phase.”