The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) has recommended that schools reopening be postponed by two weeks from 27 January, 2021 until 15 February, 2021.
This is according to the National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (NAISA), which met senior officials from the Department of Basic Education on Wednesday.
Pressure on healthcare facilities
“The NCCC was deeply concerned about the pressure on healthcare facilities given the rapid increase arising from the second wave of COVID-19, with Gauteng, Limpopo and other provinces entering their peak now and with high numbers expected for a few weeks thereafter,” NAISA Secretary-General Ebrahim Ansur said.
Ansur cited research analysed by the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) which, among others, linked the closure of schools and reduction of COVID-19 surges in countries such as the United Kingdom.
He added, “The [Department of Basic Education] Director-General [Mathanzima Mweli] clarified that the recommendations still must be ratified by Cabinet and signed off by Minister Angie Motshekga.”
According to Ansur, the government will announce the final decision “after January 15.” He said the NCCC was scheduled to meet again on Thursday.
Risk-adjusted differentiated strategy
Speaking to News24 earlier this week, Mweli said school reopening dates will remain the same “for now.”
He added, “Our risk-adjusted differentiated strategy indicated that schools wouldn’t be allowed to operate under alert level 5. At alert level 4 you allow for exit grades such as grade 12 and 7. At alert level 3 you would be able to bring in most of the grades.”
South Africa is currently battling a second wave of the pandemic and has recorded more than 200,000 new COVID-19 cases since New Year’s Day. More than 5,000 people have also lost their lives this year so far.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that South Africa will remain under the adjusted alert level 3 until the second wave’s peak has passed.
According to a joint survey by the University of Johannesburg and Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) released on Wednesday, 53 percent of adults want schools to remain closed until the COVID-19 situation improves.
Professor Carin Runciman, UJ Associate Professor at the Centre for Social Change, said, “The findings from the survey show that the majority of adults oppose the reopening of schools while COVID-19 cases continue at their current high levels.”