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New lockdown rules for schools in South Africa

Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga gazetted updated lockdown regulations for South African schools, further relaxing the rules around sports and extra-mural activities.

The gazette, which was published on Friday (23 April), states that the following activities are permitted and may resume, without any spectators, subject to compliance with hygiene and safety measures to prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19,

  • All school sport matches, which includes contact and non-contact sport;
  • Physical education;
  • Extracurricular activities; and
  • Inter-school, district, provincial and national school sport tournaments.

The gazette also increases the number of persons which are allowed to attend events at schools.

This includes participants, referees, adjudicators, technical officials, volunteers, medical team, media or broadcasting team, and stadium workers.

The new limit is a maximum of 250 persons, for indoor venues and a maximum of 500 persons, for outdoor venues.

If the venue is too small to hold 250 persons indoors or 500 persons outdoors, observing a distance of at least one and a half metres from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used – subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

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Other changes expected 

The Department of Basic Education is also expected to make a decision in the coming week in the return of learners to schools on a full-time basis.

A departmental meeting this week showed that the pandemic has had a greater than expected impact on the country’s learners, with experts week warning that schools would only catch up on the curriculum in 2030.

A large number of South Africa’s primary schools currently work on a rotational system, where pupils only come in on certain days of the week, in an effort to reduce crowding.

On the days that learners don’t physically go to school, they typically learn online from home. However, education experts have warned that this system is not sustainable in the long term.

“At this workshop there were two presentations about the learning losses. Experts are telling us that the impact is dire, it is more than we expected,” a spokesperson said.

“Experts are telling us that we will only recover in 2030. In fact, we will never catch up and we have to reconstruct the whole curriculum.”

He added that the recovery plan for schools will have to be reworked to ensure that more time is not lost. This will include the possible full-time return of learners.

However, he said that this decision would only be made after consultations with unions and would be guided by with health and safety procedures.

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