Private Schools' Reopening Dates Questioned

The Department of Basic Education has postponed the reopening of public and independent schools due to the rise in COVID-19 infections.

The 2021 return dates for public and private schools has been updated by the Department of Basic Education.

Angie Motshekga, the Basic Education Minister, announced that the return of students will be staggered, with private school pupils returning two weeks earlier than those from public schools.

Schools have been asked to not allow students to return before the specified dates, however, online or distance learning is allowed.

Officials may access school premises during the period of closure if required to do so, to prepare for the reopening of schools.

The updated return dates are as follows:

  • 25 January 2021: The principal, the school management team including Education Assistants and General Assistants (Basic Education Employment Initiative) and non-teaching staff must return to school.
  • 1 February 2021: All educators must return to school.
  • 1 February 2021: Private school learners may return to school.
  • 15 February 2021: All learners must return to school.

The decision made by the DBE has been questioned by the trade union Solidarity. 

According to Solidarity, the Department of Basic Education has no say on the dates when independent schools should reopen or close. Which is why they have issued a letter to go against this action.

“The pandemic is going to last for a long time and an unlawful decision now may set a precedent for abuse of power in the future,” said Solidarity chief executive Dr Dirk Hermann.

In its lawyer’s letter, Hermann said that Solidarity informs the minister that the DBE does not have the powers to issue such directives compelling independent schools to these actions.

“The minister is acting outside the powers conferred on her. Announcing now that independent schools must wait another week before they may reopen, or that those that have already opened have to close again, is unlawful. A pandemic does not justify wrongful decisions,” said Hermann.

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