Statement on School Reopening for 2021 Academic Period

On Monday, 11 January 2021, President Ramaphosa addressed the nation, and said that there was understandable concern about whether it was advisable to reopen schools in the midst of a second wave of infections.

The President said the matter of education was being dealt with by the National Coronavirus Command Council.  

Between Tuesday and Wednesday (12 and 13 January 2021), we consulted the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM), the 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.  All stakeholders were united in supporting a delay in the opening of schools.

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 with two weeks. This includes private schools that have reopened already. They will need to postpone their reopening to a later date. This is done to provide relief to the health system which is already struggling to cope with the current demands. 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, changes are as follows:

  • School Management Teams (SMTs) shall report for duty on Monday, 25 January 2021;
  • Teachers shall follow on Monday, 01 February 2021; and
  • Lastly, learners return on Monday, 15 February 2021.

The SMTs will go first to prepare for the return of teachers; and the teachers will prepare for the return of learners.  Schools will use the time to finalise outstanding matters, regarding admissions, especially the unplaced learners in certain cases.

CEM took this difficult decision, having considered all factors as backed up by research and statistics, regarding the current state of the health system.  The priority remains saving lives.

The DBE will work 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 / January holidays.

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