The Department of Basic Education and the National Coronavirus Command Council announced on Friday that the reopening of private and public schools will be delayed by two weeks.
The new dates for the reopening of private schools will vary depending on the calendar that they follow.
For public schools and private schools which follow the same calendar, School Management Teams (SMT) will report for duty on January 25, teachers will go back to school on February 1, and learners will return on Monday, February 15.
The schools that have already reopened have been persuaded to consider closing and reopen on February 15.
Deputy Minister of Basic Education Dr Makgabo Reginah Mhaule briefed the media in place of Minister Angie Motshekga, who is on sick leave.
Mhaule said the decision to delay schools reopening comes after consultations with the Council of Education Ministers, the Heads of Education Departments Committee, national school governing body associations, teacher unions, learner formations, principal associations, as well as the national associations representing independent schools and learners with special education needs.
She says the delay will provide relief to the health system which is struggling to cope with the current demand.
Schools will use the time to finalise outstanding matters, regarding admissions, especially unplaced learners in certain cases.
Meanwhile, the department said it was experiencing difficulties with online learning in rural areas. However, it is working with stakeholders to improve information and communications technology.
Mhaule said if the situation remains unchanged the stakeholders and the department will have to resort to e-learning.
“We appreciate the stakeholders, including the private schools, because we are all about saving the lives of our teachers and learners. If we work together, we will win this battle. We are one country, even if you are an independent school it doesn’t matter. We can’t treat others as if they don’t matter. It’s a matter of taking care of lives, we are not holding anyone at ransom. We want to protect the schools under the guidance of the health sector,” Mhaule explained.
On the issue of early childhood development centers, the department advised that if centers are ready to open before February 15 they may do so.
Asked about a possibility of a further delay to opening schools, Mhaule said if the department is able to stabilise the situation schools will reopen, but if there is a need to adjust it will be discussed and communicated.
Meanwhile, the department has encouraged parents to pay school fees, but has also asked parents, who have lost their jobs due to economic challenges brought about by the pandemic, to consult with the schools.
The department further stressed that it would continue to support the no-fee schools with personal protective equipment.
In relation to the announcement of matric results, the department said the date remains February 22.