Tag: schools

Start of school year delayed

By Liam Ngobeni for IOL

Public and private schools will only reopen officially on February 15.

Addressing the media on the start of the 2021 school year, Deputy Minister of Basic Education Reginah Mhaule said the calendar for schools had been revised to move back-to-school from January 13 to January 27, and was now being moved to February 15.

After consultations on Tuesday and Wednesday with the Council of Education Ministers, the Heads of Education Departments Committee, the national School Governing Body associations, teacher unions, learner formations, principals associations, as well as the national associations representing independent schools and learners with special education needs, it was decided to delay the opening for another fortnight.

While state schools and those which follow their calendar open on February 15, when exactly private schools open depends on their term calendars. However with many having already opened, they plan to move to online teaching.

“Given the pressure experienced by the health system in the past few weeks, occasioned by increased Covid-19 infections which has led to the second wave, the Council of Education Ministers in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet, has taken the decision to delay the reopening of both public and private schools,” Mhaule said.

For public schools, and private schools which follow the four term calendar, the idea is that management teams will be back at school on Monday, January 25, with teachers on Monday, February 1 and learners back on Monday, February 15.

“Schools will use the time (before learners return) to finalise outstanding matters, regarding admissions, especially the unplaced learners in certain cases.”

Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa executive director Lebogang Montjane, said that as with last year, its schools would recommend hybrid teaching and learning, like it did last year during the first wave, with private schools remaining open, but remotely.

Mhaule told the media briefing that the Council of Education Ministers took the difficult decision, having considered all factors as backed up by research and statistics, regarding the current state of the health system.

The Department of Basic Education will be working closely with all nine Provincial Education Departments, to establish the true extent of the impact of the virus, resulting from the unfortunate demise of educators, workers and leaders in the sector, especially during the December and January holidays.

The basic education sector has also felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic during the marking of the 2020 National Senior Certificate examination scripts.

“Some of our markers have passed away, while others withdrew from marking due to fear and anxiety, but also because for some of them or their family members have tested positive.”

The department leadership will meet with provinces next week to check on the very latest regarding the state of readiness, and they will go to stakeholders for consultation on the details of the opening of schools for 2021 school year.

There has been mixed reaction. While many welcomed the decision as being in the best interests of everyone, trade union Solidarity and AfriForum condemned it.

“It is extremely short-sighted of the government to keep children out of schools for this (long) period,” said Johnell van Vollenhoven, media and liaison officer at Solidarity.

“Research from various sources has already shown that a school is, in most cases, the safest place where a child can find him- or herself during the pandemic. Not only do children receive much-needed education at school, but they are also supervised where safety measures are strictly enforced, and most children also receive their only meal for the day at school.

The consequences of this postponement are devastating for governing body appointments and other additional services that schools offer. As it is, teachers are already under pressure to catch up on backlogs that resulted from school days lost last year. It would be unreasonable to expect that further backlogs arising from the latest postponement of the school year would now also have to be addressed,” she said.

AfriForum said it plans on directing an urgent letter to the NCCC and the department to persuade them to allow schools that can prove that they adhere to Covid-19 regulations to reopen for learners on January 27, 2021, as planned.

According to Natasha Venter, Adviser for Educational Rights at AfriForum, this is in the interest of learners who have already lost a lot of school time in 2020.

“Many schools have already made the necessary arrangements to look after learners and staff’s health. It is, therefore, unfair for the Department of Education to disadvantage these schools because the department failed to intervene in ensuring that schools who were unable to implement the necessary measures are sufficiently equipped.”

“Schools have to adjust to the new normal that the virus brought about. Government’s procrastination with supplying the vaccinations and its refusal to allow other role-players to participate, as well as the possibility of even more waves of infections, mean that we will have to abide by safety regulations for a while longer – something that many schools already do successfully. This does not mean that children’s education, social development, and welfare should be neglected, however,” said Venter.


Return-to-school plan outlined by DBE

The Department of Basic Education published the amended school calendar for 2020 on 2 August 2020.

All public schools will break from 27 July 2020 and the school arrangements after the break are as follows:

School arrangements after break

27 – 31 Jul 2020 – The principal and the School Management Team will determine the staffing requirements to ensure compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist with the distribution of learning material and the roll out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.
– The principal and the School Management Team must be on duty to make arrangements for the receipt of the learners anticipated in the weeks ahead.
– Schools will remain open for feeding of qualifying learners in terms of the National School Nutrition Programme.

3 – 7 Aug 2020 – Grade 12 and Schools of Skill: Year 4 learners will return to school on 3 August 2020.
– Grade 12 and Schools of Skill: Year 4 teachers (and teacher support staff) will return to school on 3 August 2020.
– The principal and the School Management Team (as required) will be in attendance at school.
– Officials (as identified by the principal and the School Management Team) will return to school on 3 August 2020, to assist in ensuring compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist in the distribution of learning material and the roll-out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.

11–14 Aug 2020 – Grade 7 learners will return to school on 11 August 2020.
– Grade 7 officials (and teacher support staff) will return to school on 11 August 2020.
– The principal and the School Management Team (as required) will be in attendance at school.
– Officials, who are at school, will assist in ensuring compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist in the distribution of learning material and the roll-out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.

17– 21 Aug 2020 – All officials will report for duty on 17 August 2020 to prepare for the return of learners in the remaining grades.
– Grade 7; Grade 12; and Schools of Skill: Year 4 learners and officials will already be at school.
– Officials who are already at school will assist in ensuring compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist in the distribution of learning material and the roll-out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.

24 Aug 2020
(a) Learners in the following grades, years or schools will return to school on 24 August 2020:
– Grade R; Grade 1; Grade 2; Grade 3; Grade 4; and Grade 6;
-Grade 9; Grade 10; and Grade 11;
– Schools of Skill: Year 1; Year 2; and Year 3;
– Schools with Learners with Severe and Profound Intellectual Disabilities (“LSPID”): Year 1; Year 2; and Year 3;
– Schools for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disabilities (“SID”): Grade R; Grade 1; Grade 2; Grade 3; and final year (Occupational); and
– Schools with autistic learners: Junior group (below 13 years); Senior Group (13 years and above); and final year (18 years and above).

(b) The school must ensure compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements in accommodating this group of learners.

31 Aug 2020: Learners in the following grades or schools will return to school on 31 August 2020:

  • Grade 5 and Grade 8; and
  • Schools for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disabilities (“SID”): Grade 4 and Grade 5.

By Jenna Etheridge for News24 

Frustration is mounting as teachers’ unions await feedback from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on its calls to close schools as the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa gains momentum.

Motshekga has been consulting with various stakeholders to find a way forward but the unions appear to be losing patience amid confusion over when she will meet Cabinet to discuss the issue and make an announcement.

Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga indicated on Monday that the consultation process was now closed.

“The minister has concluded the consultation process … she is now processing a comprehensive report of this process through [the] structure of government eventually with the NCCC [National Coronavirus Command Council] and Cabinet.”

This followed meetings with school governing body and principals’ associations on Thursday, civil society organisations and teachers unions on Friday and associations of independent schools on Saturday, along with the Council of Education Ministers.

But according to the unions, the consultation process is still ongoing.


They met with her ministry on Sunday night and were invited to another meeting on Monday evening.

The e-mailed invitation, which News24 has seen, is titled “Follow-Up Consultative Meeting with Unions”.

Professional Educators’ Union general secretary Ben Machipi said they had expected the department to come up with a response on Sunday already.

Instead that meeting had felt to him like a waste of time.

“They had a task team constituted that was introduced to us by the deputy minister, where they requested our consolidated proposal,” he said.

“They cannot come and ask for a consolidated document, when that was something which was already given to her [Motshekga] personally.”

National Teachers’ Union president Alan Thompson said they had been asked to give the team a chance to read their demands.

“To us this is a matter of life and death… If she is saying she has concluded consultation, she is just ticking a box.”

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said they remained focused.


“We are dealing with lives here and are frustrated; however we must not give up… We are doing this because we have serious problems in schools.”

National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said the issue now was not just about children being infected, but also the mental health and safety of teachers.

“On Friday, we were told there would be a Cabinet meeting over the weekend. We were told yesterday [Sunday] it was postponed until Tuesday,” he said.

“We are not advocating for teachers to sit back and enjoy a holiday. We want to be working on alternative models [for teaching].”

Rubbishing proposals by some to not pay teachers while they sat at home, he said thousands of teachers continued their work remotely so pupils would not fall behind.

The unions argued that teachers should be trained on how to prepare online lessons and assessments.

By Sesona Ngqakamba for News24 

Sadtu’s national executive committee held a meeting on Tuesday to pen a way forward as infections spiked in the country, affecting pupils and teachers.

Reading the statement, the union’s secretary general Mugwena Maluleke said its NEC resolved that schools close until the end of the peak.

Maluleke said evidence on the ground showed that there was no effective teaching and learning at schools during the current conditions.

The Mail & Guardian reported that another teachers union, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), has als0o called for schools to be closed until after the peak of the coronavirus.

The decision of the national executive to call for the school to close for the period was, among others, informed by the peak, the winter season, which was also impacting the surge, the union said.

“Science evolution” also guided the union’s decision, Maluleke added.

He said while scientific data at first had indicated that children were not susceptible to contracting the virus, this had not been the case at schools.

The union said it had written a letter to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and expected to engage with her and present a plan of what should happen while schools were closed.

The union said it was calling on Motshekga, through the National Institute of Communicable Diseases to use the peak period to come up with strategies to curb the spread and save lives.

It said another development that compelled its leadership to request a meeting with Motshekga was the airborne nature of the virus, which requires new ways of dealing with closed environments, adding that it was not possible to open windows in classrooms during winter.

SADTU calls for the following to happen while schools are closed:
Coordinated, interactive, and instruction radio lessons by teachers get underway.
That well-coordinated television programmes get underway.
The use of mobile phones to access content and the curriculum.
Use of education applications where content will be verified and authenticated not harmful.
Use of social media platforms for pupils to access the content.
Provision of gadgets to pupils and zero ratings of teaching and learning sites.
Maluleke said the union had also noted inconsistencies in the application of Standard Operating Procedures and the Department of Health, which were discomforting on teachers and principals.

“It requires we use the peak and the influenza period as an opportunity to get scientists to work on responses while learners are at home.

“The suspension of classes during this period would afford the platforms entrusted with the regulations and protocols, to amend and train the users. The situation is dire and impacts on everyone in the community, and not only schools,” Maluleke said.

He said the union was also concerned about the isolation and quarantine periods as well as “secrecy of those infected because the “principals were told not to tell anybody.”

The union said teaching and learning could not continue under a situation where schools open and close from time to time because of infections.Absenteeism due to anxieties and fear were also some of the concerns, it added.

“Standard Operating Procedures for the closure of schools upon confirmation of a positive case is not being implemented consistently and uniformly across the provinces. As a result, schools are on autopilot and acting outside of this particular protocol, and that is a risk to the community, [and] not only to the school,” Maluleke said.

Schools re-open – with mixed results

Schools across South Africa opened on Monday 8 June, after a two-and-a-half month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For many schools, only Grade 7 and 12 pupils were welcomed back; however, smaller private schools that passed inspection were able to open fully.

Gauteng reported 85% attendance of both teachers and pupils on the first days of back-to-school after the lockdown closure. There are now 30 schools in Gauteng that have reported cases of Covid-19.

The Western Cape, which began classes a week earlier on Monday 1 June, says 55 schools have been affected by cases of Covid-19 in the province. A total of 11 Western Cape schools were closed on Friday last week due to Covid-19 concerns.

A Port Elizabeth high school teacher tested positive for Covid-19, resulting in the closure of Ikhwezi Lomso Comprehensive High School in Zwide township.

In East London, Parkside Primary School and East London Secondary School have both closed indefinitely due to suspected Covid-19 cases.

Two Durban high schools were forced to close on Tuesday after a teacher at each school tested positive for Covid-19.
Matric pupils at Clairwood Secondary and Apollo Secondary, both situated south of Durban, were cautioned to remain at home one day after school resumed on Monday.

On Tuesday evening, there were a total of 52 991 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across SA, with 1 162 fatalities.

Post-lockdown back to school chaos

Source: IOL

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has affirmed that pupils will return to school on June 8, next Monday.

The minister also apologised to the South African public after days of confusion about the reopening of schools.

Motshekga’s department had also postponed press conferences since Friday, which were expected to outline the department’s final pronouncement on the matter of schools reopening after teacher unions and many in the public had slammed the department’s plans to forge ahead with continuing with the 2020 academic year.

Motshekga stressed that any further delay to the school year would pose a serious threat to the academic year. She also said that continued postponement of continuing with the school year would impact negatively on poor pupils, especially, as they would be expected to write the same exam with everyone else.

This means that next Monday, June 8, all Grade 7 and 12 pupils are expected back to school.

A joint survey conducted by South Africa’s teacher unions showed that no more than 55% of principals reported being ready to resume teaching and learning when schools open on Monday.

The results of the survey, which was conducted to strengthen the collaboration between the Basic Education Department and unions who share the goal of ensuring that schools are safe for teachers and learners to return, fiound that in terms of provision of face masks, all provinces scored below 25 percent except Western Cape which scored 84 percent.

The leaked survey concluded that some challenges are common across as many as six provinces, such as:

  • Inadequate water for Covid-19 requirements (6 provinces)
  • Water tanks that are required not yet delivered (6 provinces)
  • Insufficient masks delivered (two per person) (8 provinces)

By Loni Prinsloo for Bloomberg; Luke Daniel for The South African

South Africa will begin reopening schools from 1 June, allowing students to return in a phased approach in a continuing effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Classes will start nationally for students from grades seven and 12 – the final years of primary and high school respectively, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in a televised address on Tuesday. Schools have been closed since 27 March, when the government introduced a nationwide lockdown to slow the pace of Covid-19 infections.

The South African government has added additional mobile classrooms and infrastructure such as sanitisation facilities and water tankers where needed to prepare schools to reopen. Teachers should report for duty on 25 May, while a new calendar will be gazetted soon and further information about when other grades resume will be made at a later date, Motshekga said.

Smaller special-needs institutions, and some private schools that are less crowded and better able to manage social distancing, won’t necessarily need to reopen in a phased manner that’s required at larger public schools, the minister said.

South Africa’s choice to resume education is in keeping with a number of other countries that have had more severe Covid-19 outbreaks and some that have had shorter lockdown periods. These countries include China, Denmark, Israel, Finland, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

In most cases, governments are introducing precautionary measures such as temperature checks, reduced class-sizes and spacing desks further apart.

Re-opening criteria

If pupils are to return, schools need to:

  • See the return of School Management Teams and teachers (on 25 May) which will oversee the school’s state of readiness
  • Sanitise all classrooms and facilities (to be completed daily as part of the Standard Operating Procedures)
  • Equip all school staff with personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Recondition classrooms to facilitate social distancing and limit movement
  • Procure a sufficient number of face masks ( to be worn at all times by all learners and staff)
  • Ensure access to running water and hand sanitisation stations
  • Ensure COVID-19 screening systems are in place

Operating procedures

The Standard Operating Procedures booklet, which schools would need to follow, includes:

  • Physical distances in classrooms, includes not more than 2 learners sharing desks
  • No hugging or handshaking
  • Direct contact must be avoided
  • Cloth masks to be worn by learners and teachers at all times
  • No mass public events. All sports matches, choral practices and festivals, eisteddfods are not permitted
  • Extra classes should be arranged in small groups that maintain social distancing
  • Sanitise classrooms prior to the start of school day
  • Sanitise hands on entering of classrooms
  • Limit movement of learners between classes
  • No clustering of desks in classrooms
  • In addition, school staff will be provided with health and safety orientation sessions on how to help fight COVID-19 in classrooms.

Post-it notes with emojis. Locker magnets that resemble pizza and poop. Pencil boxes featuring T.rex. These are some of the many back-to-school items currently sitting on the shelves of a Wal-Mart store in Toronto.

But Rhonda Johnson, of Unionville, Ont., skipped all of that during a recent visit as she was browsing through the store with her nine-year-old son, Jahziah.
“I am the type of parent who buys something that is going to be functional and serve its purpose,” she says. “It’s going to be plain. It’s not going to be glittery.”

Back-to-school supplies, particularly stationery, have changed considerably in recent years, and are now marketed as “fashionable” items. Some feel the items allow kids to express themselves, but others argue that they detract from learning and are a waste of money.
Ms. Johnson finds fun, fashion-forward stationery expensive and “unnecessary.”

“I do not conform to society’s way of dragging you into certain trends,” she says.
The 42-year-old buys only unadorned stationery for her son, and it has always been that way for him and his older brother, Dre.
But that hasn’t stopped Jahziah from asking for a Pokemon binder or a notebook graced with the Minions from Despicable Me.
“I’ve said no for so long … [but] he still asks because it’s attractive,” Ms. Johnson says. “It’s marketing.”
Meanwhile, some 40 students in a small town in Britain won’t be allowed to use fancy gadgets at school, but not because their parents said so.

Ian Goldsworthy, a Grade 6 teacher at a school in Potters Bar, slightly north of London, has banned novelty stationery – erasers in the form of nail polish, that new “it” plastic water bottle, pencil cases almost taller than the child carrying them – from his classroom.
“It was causing too many arguments,” he says, noting that his students would flaunt the latest gimmick and wait for others to notice, get distracted when someone pulled out something shiny or sparkly and become obsessed when things went missing.

He says he had enough around Easter of 2016, when he asked his students to empty their desk drawers and put anything that they didn’t need for the lesson at hand in their backpacks.
“It wasn’t a big revolt,” he says. “There was some disappointment, but they were pretty understanding.”
They talked about the reason behind his decision as a class.
“It wasn’t me just saying from [up] high, ‘This is how it’s going to be,'” Mr. Goldsworthy says. “They could see the logic of the argument. [They] knew it would help [them] focus.”

On the first day of school every year, Mr. Goldsworthy draws up a classroom contract with his students about the rules they think will best support their learning. He’ll be adding “only bring in stationery I need” this time.
Not all teachers feel the same way.

Liane Zafiropoulos, who teaches Grade 5 at a school in Ajax, Ont., doesn’t have a problem with trendy stationery. She says her students already know the general rule that only items that infringe on their learning will be banned.
“As long as the children are writing and learning, I am happy,” she says.
The 40-year-old keeps a treasure box of special stationery in her classroom, which she lets students pick from whenever they exhibit good behaviour.
Ms. Zafiropoulos says children’s stationery is an expression of their individuality. “We might as well put them in uniforms if we are going to give them all plain pencils,” she says.
But what bothers Ms. Zafiropoulos is that some of her students cannot afford certain back-to-school supplies. “They illustrate how commercialism consumes us,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s the corporations who get richer and the families who suffer.”

Households in Canada are expected to spend $883 on back-to-school shopping this year, up from $450 last year, according to a recent Angus Reid poll of more than 1,500 Canadians.
David Lewis, an assistant professor of retail management at Ryerson University, says manufacturers are trying to make stationery – what was traditionally a relatively utilitarian and straight-forward type of product – more “hedonistic.”
“If you can turn a pencil into a toy, then it creates an entirely new market for existing products,” he says, adding that stationery is now “more fun, exciting and pleasurable.”
Mr. Lewis also sees interesting parallels between how cereal and stationery are marketed to children these days. He says both products serve different purposes for the purchaser and the influencer. “Parents are looking at nutrition,” he says. “Kids are looking at fun,” which means cartoon characters and bright food colouring.

It’s the same with stationery, where parents are evaluating functions, while kids are concerned with fun and being unique, Mr. Lewis says.
Patty Sullivan, a Toronto mother of two, doesn’t mind.
“It makes [my kids] more willing to go back to school,” she says. “They complain less.”
She also sees it as a way for children to personalize their stuff and show their friends what they like. She recently bought 18 scented markers – which smell like cotton candy, cappuccino, evergreen trees and brick oven – for $10 at a DeSerres art supply store.
If Canadian schools were ever to follow in Mr. Goldsworthy’s footsteps, she thinks teachers should consult parents first. It would be kind of a big deal for her children, she says.
Her six-year-old, Aliyah, says she would feel “bad,” as would her 10-year-old sister, Veronica.
“I would probably feel disappointed and depressed,” says Veronica. “I like seeing my happy and amusing [stationery] in class.”
A retired elementary school teacher in London, Ont., can still relate to that feeling.
It’s why Debra Rastin discouraged – instead of banned – her students from using pencils with anything at the end, from 2010 to 2015, the last five years of her career. Whether it was trolls with blue hair or soccer balls, she considered them “toys” and too distracting.
But the 63-year-old also remembers what it’s like to be 6 and excited about having something new to bring to school.
“Fifty years ago, a pack of pencil crayons was fashion-forward,” she says.

By Chris Young for The Globe and Mail

Virtual Teacher platform launched in SA

Vodacom and the Eastern Cape Department of Education have launched ‘Virtual Teacher’, a platform that allows teachers to deliver lessons to multiple remote classes. The move follows Vodacom’s Programme for Mobile Devices introduced in the province earlier this year to promote the use of digital technology in Eastern Cape schools.

Virtual Teacher enables teachers or lecturers to deliver lessons through a range of smart devices, learners can join classes from anywhere and at any time. For the first time in South Africa, the technology can be accessed from any personal device.

The platform is supported by portable hardware which delivers high-quality visuals and sound. It can also accommodate unlimited viewer numbers. The technology enables live interaction with the remote audience through a texting Q & A facility for written responses during the lesson.

Vuyani Jarana, Chief Officer at Vodacom Business, says: “Vodacom is working with the Eastern Cape Department of Education to address some of the challenges facing our education system, particularly in rural and underperforming schools. This is all about bringing innovative technology to those who need it most in order to improve learning outcomes for all education segments in our country. The future of the South African education system is digital and we must embrace the opportunities this offers to leapfrog infrastructural backlogs and legacy issues in our schools.”

In order to improve the matric pass rate in the province, the Eastern Cape Department of Education will use the Virtual Teacher platform to provide extra classes to students at selected districts in the province. Lessons will be delivered remotely by some of the country’s best teachers, with an emphasis on Mathematics, Science and Accounting. Students from various locations will be transported to teaching sites in the Eastern Cape, including Mdantsane, Maluti, Lusikisiki and Mt Frere.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education’s Superintendent General, Themba Kojana, says: “The Eastern Cape Department of Education is promoting interactive virtual teaching and learning in the province, particularly in rural communities. Technology such as the Virtual Teacher platform allows teachers to interact with remote learners to increase their understanding of school subject material, with a goal to improve learning outcomes in the province.”

The Virtual Teacher platform encompasses a camera, microphone and streaming unit which can be streamed from any device. Lessons can be pre-recorded if needed and recorded content can also be downloaded to any device. The platform is easy to use and can be linked to a school website. Content can also be zero rated by Vodacom if required.

By Fundisiwe Maseko for www.itnewsafrica.com

Schools involved in price-fixing scandal

The Competition Commission says they have extended their probe into school uniform price fixing to the rest of the country.

The commission says this decision comes after they have received nine complaints since the initial reports in January.

The commission says the investigation will focus on all schools in the country including private schools such under Curro, Advetech and Kayalami, who were among those complained about.

The complaints have come from businesses who have foreclosed because of exclusive contracts schools have with some suppliers and parents who are forced to buy from certain suppliers.

Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema says they have found merit in some of these complaints.

“We are continuing to probe others and once we are finished we’ll take a decision on whether to refer certain schools and contracted business the competition tribunal. If there are other means to address this before the tribunal, we are open to that.”

By Tebogo Tshwane for Eyewitness News

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