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Schools ready to reopen on Monday, release of matric exam results on track – minister

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State schools are ready to start reopening this week, with health and safety precautions a priority, says Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga

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SCHOOLS are ready to start reopening this week with health and safety precautions are a priority, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday, adding that the release of the 2020 matric exam results is also on schedule.

The department started phasing in the reopening of schools for the 2021 academic year three weeks ago, with school management teams returning on January 25 and teachers back at work since February 1, she said in a media briefing.

“The latest amended school calendar for 2021, as published by the department, confirms that tomorrow – Monday, February 15 – learners are going back to school. At the outset, we must emphasise that the health and safety of teachers, staff, and learners remains at the top of the priority list,” Motshekga said.

She said the department has been monitoring the state of provinces on a regular basis to ensure that they have systems in place to cope under the Covid-19 pandemic and to provide support where support was needed to ensure the smooth opening and running of schools.

“We will continue to maintain the delicate balance between health and safety in schools on the one hand, while on the other, we deal with the curriculum gaps identified during the 2020 academic year. Senior managers in the sector, under the leadership of the director general, have been working very hard to strengthen the already existing plans for 2021,” Motshekga said.

The impact of the coronavirus continues to be felt in the basic education sector. The latest available figures indicated that 1,169 educators and 63 non-teaching staff had died as a direct result of Covid-19.

“The demand for space in schools, especially in Grades 1 and 8, remains a challenge for the sector. All provinces are experiencing a high demand in particular areas. Provinces have made good progress in placements, but there are still 16,117 learners awaiting spaces in schools,” Motshekga said.

The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on Saturday and the matter of school admissions was identified as critical, because the system could not afford to see any pupils being left behind.

“It was agreed that provinces would work with speed to place all the learners in the next week. CEM appeals to parents and guardians to co-operate with officials at the district level in order to accelerate the placement process,” she said.

“One of the questions frequently asked is around the payment of school fees during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important to clarify this matter. There are two types of public schools in the country – the fee paying schools and no-fee paying schools. Fee paying schools are allowed to charge school fees, as determined at the annual general meeting of the SGB (school governing body). Therefore, the payment of school fees in such schools is mandatory.”

In terms of the South African Schools Act, SGBs of fee paying schools had the authority to “enforce parents to pay school fees through legal means”. The liability of parents was determined through an affordability formula, which could be used to determine whether a parent could be exempted partially or fully from paying school fees, Motshekga said.

Turning to the 2020 matric exams, the minister said the exams were administered well, barring a few glitches here and there.

“I must report that we are on schedule for the release of the 2020 NSC exam results on February 22, 2021, and candidates should get their statements of results on February 23, 2021 from their schools,” she said.

– African News Agency (ANA)