A commuter reacts as she is sprayed with sanitiser via walk-through 'tunnels' before boarding public transport in Soweto, South Africa, May 14, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
South Africa is set to start reopening schools on June 1, starting with grades 7 and 12, the final years of junior and senior school, respectively.
The phased reopening is aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus that has so far infected 17,200 and killed 312 in the country. Schools were closed on March 27 to slow down the spread of the virus.
Speaking in a televised statement on Tuesday, Angie Motshekga, the minister for Basic Education, said the reopening has been approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council and the Cabinet.
"Independent and public ordinary schools will open even in the metropolitan areas. Every school must adhere to and observe the health and safety protocols that will be put in place," Motshekga said.
She said students and teachers who are in other provinces will be able to return to their residences. Additionally, all students, educators and support staff will receive orientation and training at the start of school reopening.
"We are aware of the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on families and society in general. It is unprecedented and as a result an increase in social, mental, psychological and emotional difficulties amongst learners, educators and officials is anticipated due to losses and trauma experienced through coronavirus," Motshekga said.
She said in addition to the Psychosocial Support Services of the Departments of Social Development and Health that serve schools, the Basic Education Sector has psychologists and social workers who have prior training in counseling. They will be able to use their skills to support schools.
Currently, the delivery of coronavirus essentials in the schools is ongoing in all provinces. These include sanitizers, masks, water and sanitation. The schools also are being cleaned.
"We are working with the Department of Transport to ensure that safety protocols are maintained, including everybody sanitizing hands on entering a bus, managing distance between students in the bus and compulsory wearing of masks throughout the school day, starting before boarding transport," Motshekga said.
She said school sports will not be permitted as they will increase the chances of infection and undermine efforts of containing the coronavirus.
"When class is dismissed, learners must go home. We urge parents to work with us on this matter," she said.