President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced that schools will remain closed until 26 July.
During his statement on the progress in the national effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa said cabinet followed scientific advice provided by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and deliberations of the National Coronavirus Command Council.
“After consultation with the provinces, we decided to maintain the country at Adjusted Alert Level 4 for another 14 days.
“These measures were urgent, and they were absolutely necessary to contain the third wave, which is being fuelled by the new Delta variant.
“It remains our priority to break the chain of transmission by limiting social contact,” said Ramaphosa.
In response, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, said “President Cyril Ramaphosa in his own words”.
Earlier in the week, Mhlanga said schools were still set to open as initially planned.
The spokesperson added that the department had received advice from the Ministerial Advisory Committee that schools can still open on 19 July.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said it will be devastating if the country’s schools are not allowed to reopen on 19 July as planned.
Motshekga said the education sector has already lost significant time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which will have long-term ramifications.
She said her department plans to open on 19 July as gazetted but, “we will not be irresponsible if there are still difficulties by the time we want to open and bring more learners”.
Mhlanga said the call for schools not to open is an irresponsible call and that the education sector cannot afford to lose another school year.
But on Sunday, Ramaphosa told the nation that when he last addressed citizens [on 27 June], he indicated that government would assess the situation after 14 days and determine what further adjustments may be required.
“As things stand now, infections remain extremely high.
“With the fast-spreading Delta variant, we are experiencing a third wave that is more severe than the first and second waves.
“For the last two weeks, the country has consistently recorded an average of nearly 20,000 daily new cases. At present, the country has over 200,000 active Covid-19 cases,” said Ramaphosa.
Adding that in the last two weeks over 4,200 South Africans have lost their lives to Covid-19.
Some teacher unions have consistently said schools should not open before July 26.
Ben Machipi, secretary of the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU) previously said that PEU is not in support of schools opening on 19.
“We should first observe the impact of the 14-day alert level 4 lockdown on infections before determining when must school reopen,” Machipi said.
Inside Education previously reported that Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, said the date for the reopening of schools left them a bit uncomfortable.
“We believe that we should keep the reopening of the schools on the 26 of July because we don’t know if the whole country will have passed the third wave. There are provinces that are far behind in the peak, and we don’t want to see continuous changes on the school calendar.
“The president closed schools, but we should keep the holidays as they are,” he said.
Kabelo Mahlobogwane, Educators Union of SA spokesperson, also said the reopening of schools must be guided by the third wave.
“Right now, the focus is to save lives and that is what we will entertain,” he said.