Why Cabinet decided to delay schools’ opening to 15 February

Deputy Minister for the Department of Basic Education Dr Reginah Mhaule. Picture: Screenshot

‘The Covid-19 infection rate has increased. We are seeing more deaths to the extent that almost everybody knows somebody who has been infected by it,’ said Deputy Minister Regiona Mhaule said.

The Department of Basic Education’s academic calendar for the year 2021 has been postponed by two weeks to allow the already strained healthcare system to breathe.

That was announced by Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule on Friday morning.

The schedule of the curriculum resumption will now commence on the 15 February for learners. School management teams will report for duty on 25 January and teachers will follow 1 February.

She said the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) had taken the unanimous decision with all stakeholders, based on factors backed by research and statistics regarding the current state of the health system.

“Given the pressure experienced by the health system in the past few weeks, occasioned by an increase in Covid-19 infections which has led to the second wave. The Council of Education Ministers in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council [NCCC] and Cabinet has taken the decision to delay the reopening of both public and private schools with two weeks,” Mhaule said.

“The Covid-19 infection rate has increased. We are seeing more deaths to the extent that almost everybody knows somebody who has been infected by it.”

“In some instances, Covid-19 has wiped out the entire families, it has left massive devastation in its wake and for many people, their circumstances have changed for the worse.”

She said the department would work with all provinces to establish the impact of the virus, resulting in the unfortunate demise of education workers and leaders in the sector, especially during the December-January period.

The department could not give updated numbers as to how many teachers were infected so far. It, however, conceded that it had felt the impact of the pandemic even during the marking of the matric exam scripts.

ALSO READ: Teacher unions welcomes NCCC’s proposal to pause reopening schools

“Some teachers have passed away, while others withdrew from marking due to fear and anxiety, but also some of them, their own family members, had tested positive. “

Mhaule cited that the main factor was also teachers attending ceremonies attended by big crowds without following health protocols.

“In majority cases, educators indicated that they have attended funerals or ceremonies by groups of people resulting in gatherings that were not monitored for compliance, with health protocols which include wearing of masks, social distancing and sanitising of hands.”

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