South Africa will begin reopening schools from June 1, allowing students to return in a phased approach in a continuing effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Classes will start nationally for students from grades seven and 12 — the final years of junior and senior school respectively, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in a televised address on Tuesday. Schools have been closed since March 27, when the government introduced a nationwide lockdown to slow the pace of Covid-19 infections.
The South African government has added additional mobile classrooms and infrastructure such as sanitization facilities and water tankers where needed to prepare schools to reopen. Teachers should report for duty on May 25, while a new calendar will be gazetted soon and further information about when other grades resume will be made at a later date, Motshekga said.
Smaller special-needs institutions, and some private schools that are less crowded and better able to manage social distancing, won’t necessarily need to reopen in a phased manner that’s required at larger public schools, the minister said.
South Africa’s choice to resume education is in keeping with a number of other countries that have had more severe Covid-19 outbreaks and some that have had shorter lockdown periods. These countries include China, Denmark, Israel, Finland, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.
In most cases, governments are introducing precautionary measures such as temperature checks, reduced class-sizes and spacing desks further apart.