President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his address to the nation on Thursday evening, announced that schools would close again for the next four weeks.
This comes as the infection peak in many provinces fast approaches.
As of today, the country has recorded 408,052 confirmed cases, putting it in fifth place in the world.
“The coronavirus storm has indeed arrived,” Ramaphosa said, adding that more than 130,000 new cases have been identified since his last national address on 12 July.
While South Africa continues to have one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, the total death toll is now at over 6,000 official cases.
“Cabinet has decided today that all public schools should take a break for the next four weeks,” the President said, adding that the designated dates are from 27 July to 24 August.
The President did not however specifically touch on private schools, nor pre-primary schools or day care centres.
Also read: Ramaphosa guns for Covid-19 crooks
Some exceptions to the four-week break are:
– Grade 12 learners and teachers will take a one-week break, returning to school on 3 August
– Grade 7 learners and teachers will return on 10 August after a two-week break – specific arrangements will be made for different categories of special schools.
In addition, the current academic year will be extended beyond the 2020 calendar year.
The Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, will make the arrangements regarding the new academic calendar public at a later stage.
“It is important to ensure that schools do not become sites of transmission at a time when infections are rising fast,” the President said.
Earlier in his address, Ramaphosa indicated that while it seems as if infections are levelling off in the Western Cape since the third week of June, it could be too early to tell if this development shows that the worst is over in the province.
“We must do everything to minimise the lost of life…
“We have always said the health as well the wellbeing of learners and educators is critical. We have said that it is vital the development and progress of learners should not be impeded.”
While the disruption to learning will have long-term impacts on learners, the decision to close schools again has been necessitated by the rising infections.
“Over the last few days the department of basic education, lead by Minister Motshekga has met with more than 60 organisations representing parents, school governing bodies, principals… educators… independent schools and independent civil society organisations.”
The insights gleamed from the interactions showed there is a broad range of views and finding consensus was difficult.
“What everyone does agree on though is that the health, the academic and social development of learners must remain our foremost concern,” Ramaphosa said.