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The Fate of South Africa’s 2020 Academic Year – Where to From Here

Article by Natalie Müller

The much anticipated address by ministers Angie Motshegka and Blade Ndzimande on basic and tertiary education, commenced on Thursday 16:45.

The ministers briefed the public on the way forward for the remainder of the 2020 academic year going forward, in a press briefing this afternoon.

Minister Blade Ndzimande launched his speech, by stating that the country had entered into uncharted territory in confronting aspects of the Covid-19 , but assured that we are drawing strength against this adversity from the country’s long history of struggle as a method to fight against this unprecedented challenge of Covid-19. 

Nzimande said that it is top priority of the collective departments to ensure that students and staff members are protected against the spread of the virus. We are constrained by the very same challenges that we are in desperate need to address said Nzimande. 

The President announced on 23 March 2020 that the education sectors would take an early recess and effectively suspended all academic activity. All the measures which are to be identified herein to follow within the thematic process for Covid-19 under the hashtag, #SaveThdAcademicYear #SaveLives – Blade Nzimande

The minister stressed that we as a nation must save the 2020 academic year but not at the expense of people’s lives. Nzimade confirmed that they have decided not to resume with campus based education during level 4 of the lockdown period. 

We decided not to resume with campus-based academic activity throughout the PSET sector, including all Universities & TVET Colleges during Level 4 lockdown.The only exception will be the controlled return of final year Clinical Training (medical) students, under strict conditions said Nzimande 

The 2020 Academic year will be reorganised with the possibility of extending into the start of academic year of 2021. 

He further stressed that, they are not going to make reckless decisions just because there are those who are pressuring them to say, that students must go back to school as the government’s task is to save lives! 

Nzimande confirms that the June and July holidays will fall away as a revised academic calendar will soon be published. 

Nzimande said in closing that, we are in an unprecedented emergency, we have to use all available tools to reach our students fully cognisant that it will not substitute the need for contact learning when conditions permit.  This we will do making sure that No student or institution is left behind.

Angie Motshegka stated that the National Covid-19 command council considered both basic and higher education sectors and that they’ve had more than 50 different meetings with various stakeholders. 

We ensure that the safety of our learners and educators whilst balancing it by protecting the 2020 academic year.  We had fruitful meeting with all teacher unions and sectors of special education and South African Principal Council and all the other associations that are active in the education sector. 

The principal of opening schools at the right time was accepted on the basis of conditions being met. Incorporating all the suggestions that have been brought forward. Motshegka said that all their partners have requested that the department provide all protective gear to schools and all learners as well as provide awareness campaigns to parents on the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Minister Motshekga said that the proposed date for the first phase of schooling is 01 June 2020. Learners in Grades 12 and grade 7 may resume schooling on that date provided that all the necessary measures are in place and approved by the command council.

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