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Parliament Briefed on State of Reopening of Schools

September 8, 2020

Department of Basic Education

The portfolio committee on basic education, in a statement, has confirmed that grade 12 learners who write examinations in April or May in 2021 will be able to enrol at universities that finish their 2020 academic programmes in 2021.

The basic education department briefed the committee last week on the state of reopening of schools and the national school nutrition programme.

According to the committee, the department pointed out that only five historically advantaged universities will reopen at the traditional reopening time in 2021.

“The remainder, particularly historically disadvantaged institutions, will reopen the 2021 year after finishing their 2020 academic programmes. The department said that this will assist in accommodating grade 12 learners who will write their exams after March 2021.”

In terms of current dropouts, the committee heard that these are more prevalent in affluent provinces, such as the Western Cape, than in rural provinces due, for example, to parents’ choice to send their children to school or not.

The department also briefed the committee on draft amendments to Directions on the re-opening of schools.

The basic education department published the draft amendments in Government Gazette 43642 in terms of Disaster Management Act Regulations for comment.

A new subdirection (1) is proposed to Direction 8.

It refers to guidelines developed for the specific categories of learners with disabilities.

Steps that heads of department need to take when learners do not return to school are outlined including availability and distribution of teaching and learning materials in appropriate modes and access to remote support from teachers; provision or loan of assistive devices for use at home and provision of and access to therapeutic services where necessary.

A new subdirection 8(9) is proposed indicating that applications for full or partial exemption of the learner from compulsory school attendance must be accompanied by requests for support in Annexure E1.

A proposed amendment to Direction 9 stipulates that if a school hostel exceeds the number of learners it can accommodate in accordance with social distancing requirements, the school hostel will not be required to close in its entirety provided that the school makes alternative arrangements in order to ensure the reasonable accommodation of learners in school hostels.

A new subdirection (5) is proposed to Direction 15 stipulating that a school may accommodate more than 50 persons in a school hall at a time provided that all health, safety and social distancing requirements are complied with.

A new Annexure E1 on application for exemption of learner to attend school is also proposed.

Comment on the draft amendments was invited until 7 September 2020.

Meanwhile, the department also briefed the select committee on education and technology, sports, arts and culture last week on the amended 2020 school calendar.

The fourth term is scheduled to end on 15 December 2020 and school reports for learners in grade R to 11 must be issued on that date.

Grade 12 exams will commence on 5 November 2020 with the ministerial announcement on results set for 22 February 2021 and the provincial release of results on 23 February 2021.