We don’t know when schools will reopen, says Motshekga, but matrics WILL still write

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We don’t know when schools will reopen, says Motshekga, but matrics WILL still write

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga at a congratulatory breakfast with class of 2018 Top Achievers, Vodacom World, Midrand, 3 January 2019. Picture: Jacques Naude/ African News Agency (ANA)

A handful of ministers were updating the nation on the status of the 21-day lockdown as it concerned their departments.

Giving feedback on Saturday about the effect of the Covid-19 outbreak and the 21-day lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said that her department had no “guarantee” that schools would be reopening at the end of the 21-day lockdown.

She said it was too early to say whether the proposed end of the lockdown on 16 April would coincide with the reopening and the resumption of classroom teaching, since it would be up to the health minister to decide on whether it was safe for people to leave their homes.

She admitted it was unfortunate that millions of school children who normally relied on meals at schools would now no longer receive those meals.

It’s not possible for us to feed children outside school times,” she said.

She was adamant, however, that the 2020 school year could not and would not be lost.

No, 2020 will not go down the drain; we will do whatever it takes.”

She said that matrics would still be writing their exams this year.

“By hook or crook, they are writing this year.”

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu also clarified that the movement of children for co-parenting during the lockdown period was still prohibited, following confusion about this due to another briefing given by the justice minister.

You can follow the briefing in the video below, courtesy of the SABC.

Minister Blade Nzimande also said the following about higher education and training during the briefing:

Reunification of South Africans from Wuhan City

The 14-day quarantine period for the 114 South African citizens repatriated from Wuhan City in China ended on Friday, 27 March 2020. The Department of Health is working on the modalities for their release home.

The Department is responsible for transporting the students to their respective provinces and to ensure that they are reunited with their families. Buses and mini vans have been secured to transport the citizens from the Ranch in Limpopo to the rest of the country. Transportation of the citizens will commence on Monday, 30 March 2020.

Work Placement Students from China

As reported previously on Friday, 20 March 2020, 76 TVET college students returned from China after having being in work placement at Chinese companies arranged through various Sector Education and Training Authorities.

On arrival, the students were placed in quarantine at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Kempton Park, for 14 days. Three DHET officials have been deployed to oversee the students over this period. In addition, a circular has been sent to all colleges on the requirement for all students to be placed in a quarantine facility following their return from placements abroad.

On 23 March 2020, a further four students arrived from China and were placed in quarantine at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre. Two of these students tested positive for Tuberculosis before landing in South Africa, and were discharged from observation back into the quarantine facility at Birchwood on 26 March 2020. Both tested negative for COVID-19.

The students at Birchwood will be transported back to their homes once their quarantine period is over. Clearance letters have been prepared for transportation arrangements to be facilitated. The Gauteng/Free State Regional Manager is assisting in this regard.

Online Learning

We are engaging with colleges on pursuing online learning modalities where possible, whilst also looking at the possibility of using readily available study guides for the trimester and semester programmes. Am in discussions with Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni Abrahams, on how to deal with access to data for expansion of online learning.

On 26 March 2020, we have made available e-Learning Guides to all our TVET Colleges throughout the country. These guides can be downloaded on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

We will further develop a structured catch-up programme for the annual National Curriculum (Vocational) programmes will be developed once colleges reopen.

A process is underway to upload previous examination papers for students to work through in preparation for examinations. Colleges will be informed in the coming week on how students can access these examination question papers.
As previously reported, the Department has requested all universities to complete an updated survey on their IT capability for offering online learning. As a Department, together with the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), we now have started to analyse the survey results to identify any institutions that require immediate assistance to enhance their capability.

STUDENTS REMAINING ON UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES

As we implementing measure to ensure our institution are not adversely affected by the virus, we are also putting measures to ensure that students who remains on our residences comply to the regulations.

As previously reported, I indicated that all students who could not return home were being accommodated in residences. This also includes instances where some universities were allowing students with exceptional circumstances to stay on campus together with international students who could not vacate. Institutions note mentioned below, are those whose students have completely vacated the residences.

We have the following students remaining on our residences:

University of Fort Hare – 30 students
University of Johannesburg – 940 students
University of the Western Cape – 370 students
North West University – 64 students
Central University of Technology – 27 students
University of Pretoria – 236 students
Sol Plaatje University – 0
Vaal University of Technology – 18 students
Mangosuthu University of Technology – 6 students
Rhodes University – 36 students
Walter Sisulu University – 23 students
Stellenbosch University – 971
Cape Peninsula University – 1853 students
Wits University – approximately 100 students
Sefako Makgatho University – approximately 20 students
University of Limpopo – 50 students
University of Venda – 14 students
University of the Free State – 105 students
University of Cape Town – under 100 students
Nelson Mandela University – 382 students
University of KwaZulu-Natal – 11 students
University of Zululand – 26 students
Tshwane University of Technology to submit
Durban University of Technology to submit
University of Mpumalanga – 0

My department working together through our COVID 19 Task team, led by the Deputy Minister Bhuti Manamela, comprising of Universities South Africa (USAF), South African College Principals Organisation (SACPO), the South African Union of Students (SAUS), Labour Unions, Higher Health and the Department of Health have a well-coordinated response as a PSET sector to the virus.

NSFAS COVID-19 CONTIGENCY PLAN AND DISBURSEMENTS

All NSFAS funded and registered students will receive their allowances during the recess.

According to the report I received from the NSFAS Administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, has processed almost all the applications received to date including the TVETs and University walk-ins received during the first quarter of 2020.

NSFAS made provisional funding available to four-hundred and forty-eight thousand and thirty-eight (448 038) university students for the academic year 2020, of which three hundred and fifty thousand and two hundred and eighty-nine (350 289) registration records from institutions have been received.

Total upfront payments made to institutions to date is an amount of R4,2 billion. This amount includes the 2nd upfront payment of R677 million which was paid to assist with transport and accommodation during the registration period.

SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

As reported in my previous statement, through the Department of Science and Innovation through the CSIR we have successfully commissioned and finalized the physical set-up of a core situational awareness platform.

Currently, the core of the platform is health data but over time, we intend to integrated the system with other types of data to provide a more robust platform that can provide holistic decision support to the National Command Centre.

A joint CSIR and Department of Health team are hard at work in creating a range of data warehouses including the current geographic spread of the disease, current cases, health vulnerabilities, and location of health and other facilities, amongst others.

Initial visualisations have been completed and these will be continuously enhanced and improved. We thank the team which worked on this system for the efforts and commitments.

Protocols and arrangements are also being facilitated by the DSI to enable the situational awareness platform to draw in information from other sources. This includes the results of the modelling efforts of various modelling teams on a regular basis,

Initial work, led by a team at the University of Pretoria, have also started mobilizing continent-wide networks to build databases on covid-19 cases. Of particular strategic importance for the South African response effort is the situation in our neighbouring countries.

Over the next few days, protocols and improved management arrangements for the facility will be finalized to protect the health and wellness of the core team.

The team has also identified opportunities for accessing key data sets held by the private sector for the explicit purpose of strengthening our situational capacity capabilities. We count on the support of our private sector partners in this regard.

The situational awareness platform is flexible and dynamic and will be improved and customized based on the prevailing decision support requirements of the National Command Centre

Building an evidence base on behavior and perceptions

Thought the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) w are currently conducting an online survey to better understand current behaviours and patterns.

As at 27 March, about 2,400 people have responded to the survey. The sample size has increased but a statistician has been commissioned to assess the quality of the responses and data after which analysis can be done. This will happen over the next 2 days.

We’ll keep the public informed on the outcome of the results of this survey.

The HSRC is also currently pulling together a range of efforts in this space including work specifically focus on rural communities (SAPRIN), social media sentiment analysis using natural language processing techniques.

A number of researchers as well as private sector players have expressed a willingness to assist. Follow-ups are being made on how best they can support a national effort.

We therefore are making a call to survey companies in the private sector to join hands with government to better understand the behaviours and perceptions of our people.

Through the HSRC we will also introduce a system of dynamic updates on behavior and perception issues as these will change on an almost daily basis.

In this regard, we will continue to update the public on our measurers that we will continue to introduce working together with other government departments and our social partners.

Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the following: 

Good afternoon.

  • From the outset, let me thank the majority of South Africans who heeded the clarion call by President Ramaphosa to stay home for the sake of all of us. This period requires a collective national effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are in this together.
  • We note the anxiety and fears that this pandemic has caused millions of South African families, especially the most vulnerable in our society.
  • Since the declaration of the state of national disaster and the 21-day lockdown, we have been inundated with calls from South Africans who are worried about their livelihoods.
  • Today, Gogo Tsakani Maluleke in Giyani is worried about whether she will get her Old Age Grant at her local pay point. This grant is the only source of income for her and her family.
  • I would like to take this opportunity to allay Gogo Maluleke’s fears and anxiety and the millions of other social grants beneficiaries across the country that we are working around the clock to allay their concerns at this difficult time.

Payment of social grants

  • As we stated earlier this week, there is no need to panic and rush to pay points as social grants will be paid from 30 and 31 of this month, starting with older persons and persons with disabilities with the view to alleviate overcrowding.
  • All other social grants will be paid on the 1st of April as per schedule. Both SASSA and the South African Post Office have finalised all logistical arrangements pertaining to social grants payment.
  • We have activated government fleet across all provinces to ensure that older persons and persons with disabilities get to the pay points to get their grants.
  • We will publish the list and contact details all SASSA Regional Managers that members of the public can contact if they experience any challenges. The SASSA and SAPO Call Centres will remain operational to respond to public enquiries.
  • We are deploying SASSA officials at all pay points to monitor and report on all service delivery challenges

Shelters for persons living and working on the streets 

  • We have directed all provinces to activate shelters to provide accommodation and meals to people working and living on the streets, including children.
  • Provinces are working with municipalities in this regard.
  • I have recommended that all MECs replicate the best practice model by the Department of Social Development in Gauteng Province.

Services to person with disabilities 

  • All residential facilities, including respite care at centre and community based have been declared essential services. All personnel have been given protective wear and permits to continue providing services, including family support to those with severe disabilities.

Services to older persons

  • We have directed all provinces to put in place mechanisms to consistently monitor vulnerable older persons who might be staying on their own.

Faith-based organisations 

We reiterate our Government gratitude to the manner in which our faith-based organisations have positively responded and continue to cooperate with government in slowing down the spread of this pandemic.

Recruitment of additional social service personnel

  • Provinces are recruiting additional 1 809 social service personnel to provide psychosocial support services to affected families. We are focusing on unemployment social workers who benefited from the Department’s Scholarship Programme.
  • The NDA has appointed volunteers in all 9 provinces who will serve as our ears and eyes and report all service delivery challenges, which will be escalated to the War Room headed by Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.
  • We have recruited social service professionals through the South African Council for Social Service Professional across 9

Service delivery continuity

  • From the Social Development point of view, we are ready to contribute in any ways we can to contain and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our people.
  • Once again, we appeal to our people to comply with the regulations and to avoid exposing themselves and others to possible infections to COVID-19.

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