Here is the proposed amended 2020 school calendar for Grade 7 and 12

After numerous delays, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is expected to finally reveal its plans for the 2020 school year which has been seriously disrupted by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Minister Angie Motshekga will be joined by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande at a press briefing on Thursday 30 April. This comes after an earlier conference, scheduled to take place on Monday, was cancelled at the last minute.

Both departments, under severe pressure to provide clarity regarding the disrupted curriculum and associated contingency plans, noted that further consultation with the National Command Council (NCC) was necessary.

Lockdown level 4: Government in a race against the clock

The NCC itself has admitted to being in a race against the clock as South Africa moves to level 4 lockdown on 1 May. The council, headed by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, needs to apply the relevant regulatory amendments to the Disaster Management Act within the next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, pupils, parents and teachers have been left on tenterhooks as the school year dwindles away into an uncertain abyss. While government’s digital learning initiatives intend to supplement the curriculum, questions concerning access to the internet and exam protocols still dominate the discourse.

A flurry of fake news has done little to help ease the anxiety. Since the postponement of the initial briefing, the department has been forced to fend off an onslaught of fake news and spurious claims. On Wednesday morning, Deputy Minister for the Department of Basic Education, Reginah Mhaule, said:

“The much awaited media briefing will take place tomorrow [Thursday 30 April] at 10am. Don’t fall prey to fake news. Ignore the fake DBE Facebook page.”

Portfolio Committee on Basic Education gives clues

During a digital parliamentary meeting involving the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, the Director-General of Basic Education, Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, revealed that Monday’s meeting was postponed due to a ‘special request’.

Concerns surrounding the schooling system’s state of readiness continue to raise red flags. The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has argued that while the curriculum has suffered due to the lockdown, government needed to exercise extreme caution in reopening schools.

Schools are considered high-risk environments because of the number of pupils in close proximity to one another. Sadtu has said that, when schools reopen, the department would need to supply both pupils and teachers with personal protective equipment.

When will South African schools reopen?

On Wednesday, Mweli elaborated on protocols which were to be followed once schools reopened. The Director-General added that any proposed dates would be finalised by Motshekga during Thursday’s briefing. The proposed guidelines on social distancing at schools included:

  • Physical distancing in classrooms; no more than two learners sharing desks
  • No hugging or hand shaking
  • Cloth face masks to be worn by all students and teachers at all times
  • No mass events; sports matches, choral practices and festivals permitted

During the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education briefing, Mweli noted the proposed amended school calendar for Grade 7 and 12 as follows:

Term 2:

  • Start for teachers: 4 May
  • Start for learners: 6 May
  • End of term: 26 July

Term 3:

  • Start: 3 August
  • End: 23 September

Term 4:

  • Start: 28 September
  • End for learners: 9 December
  • End for teachers: 11 December

The phasing in approach

In line with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s directive, the department of basic education has proposed a ‘phased in’ approach to schooling post-lockdown.

Note: The finalisation of all above proposals will be addressed by Motshekga during the department’s official media briefing on Thursday 30 April at 10:00.

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Presh JM Reporter

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