ANY decision on whether schools will be closed or not, will be taken by Cabinet.
This comes with threats that legal action will be taken against any person who disrupts schooling.
This was announced on Wednesday by the Basic Education Department following calls by unions, including the South African Democratic Teachers Union and Naptosa, that schools be closed until after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The government is extremely concerned about teachers, principals and non-teaching staff who use any platform to attack government for going back to work; ostensibly creating an impression that they should be treated differently from the rest of the other public servants.
“CEM (Council of Education Ministers) has resolved to take legal action against all individuals and groups that continue to disrupt schooling,” said the department in a statement on Wednesday.
The DBE explained that one of the main reasons for the phased-in reopening of schools, was to make sure the “unfettered right to basic education for all children is equitably provided”.
During alert levels 5 and 4 of the national lockdown, most children from the most rural and remote areas of the country, especially pupils from quintiles 1-3 schools, could not access any form of online teaching and learning.
“This inadvertently negatively affected these children’s unfettered right to basic education. It is particularly the poor, who continue to be at risk, if schools do not reopen.
“Critical in the phased reopening of schools, was adherence to the health, safety and social distancing protocols as determined by the Department of Health,” said the department.
In addition, the department explained that its decision to reopen schools was guided by science, health and education experts as well as learning from international experiences.
“We have repeatedly reported that countries of the world directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, have responded differently to the pandemic.
“Some have completely reopened their schools, some have partially reopened their schools; some even reopened and closed their schools when the realities pertaining to the pandemic forced them to do so. South Africa is definitely no different from international practices,” it said.
The department added that one of the main reasons it reopened schools was to enable poor pupils to access the school nutrition programme.
“There were pupils who were deprived of the meals due to the national lockdown. With the reopening of schools, we are now feeding our pupils and have further expanded the feeding to those, who are not yet back in schools,” it said.
Arrangements are also in place for pupils to collect food parcels from the schools closest to their homes.
The department stated further that it continued to provide support to pupils, using a variety of platforms, including radio, television, online, and of course physical teaching and learning in schools.
“The DBE has over 330 digital content education sites that have been zero-rated and have good curriculum content that can be accessed by any learner, whether they have data or not,” said the department.
The DBE and its partners have also broadcasted and streamed over 3 000 hours of lessons to support learners through television, radio and online platforms.
“These interventions are part of the department’s effort to ensure unlimited access to rich content for learning during this time.”