Schools reopen despite confusion

Grade 7 pupils at Kisternhof Primary School wear their masks on the first day back.

Western Cape schools opened their doors to Grade 7s and 12s on Monday, despite the Department of Basic Education’s last minute announcement that they were not ready to accept those pupils and were going to postpone the reopening of schools for them to June 8 because some provinces were not ready.

Parents, teachers and pupils expressed confusion and concern all over social media on Sunday evening after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga postponed a 6pm briefing on school readiness.

The department later that evening issued a statement saying the reopening would need to be delayed by a week to Monday June 8.

The statement came after Ms Motshekga had insisted multiple times in the previous week that schools were ready to accept pupils.

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer went against the department’s statement only moments later, putting out a statement of her own, saying that schools in the province were ready and would reopen on June 1.

Ms Schafer said that R280 million had already been spent on personal protective equipment and cleaning materials for the schools, pupils transport had been arranged for the next morning for those on the Learner Transport Scheme and schools had also made provisions for school meals.

Ms Schafer said that pupils who were in boarding schools had already arrived on Sunday evening so it was unfair to delay the reopening when the province was ready, especially considering all the effort that had been put in by teachers and non-teaching staff to prepare the schools.

Not everyone was happy about this, and the Human Rights Commission indicated on Monday that it would be taking the Western Cape government to court over this decision.

Meanwhile, pupils at Kirstenhof Primary and Westlake Primary underwent strict screening and had to comply with physical-distancing and hygiene regulations for their first day back at school on Monday.