Planned opening of schools to be tightly monitored – SAHRC

Commission has contacted DBE to request additional information

SAHRC to monitor planned opening of schools in light of Covid-19 pandemic

21 May 2020

The South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC or the Commission) notes the announcement by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to re-open schools on 1 June 2020, initially for learners in Grades 7 and 12 to start school. The restart of learners in other grades will be announce later and those learner will return to school over time. The Commission has contacted the DBE to request additional information on its decision to re-open schools in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The request to the DBE is in accordance with Section 13(1)(a)(iii) of the South African Human Rights Commission Act that empowers and obliges the Commission to request any organ of state to supply it with information on any executive measures it has adopted in relation to human rights.

The Commission is aware of the concerns raised by various sectors of society about the planned re-opening of schools. The Commission has accordingly held discussions on the matter, including with various external stakeholders.

The Commission will undertake a monitoring activity across all 9 provinces of the country to establish the level of readiness of schools to receive learners, including learners with disabilities, during the Covid-19 pandemic. In its monitoring activity, the Commission will seek information on a number of issues, including the safety of learners and educators, access to basic services in schools and training and access to information on the revised curriculum.  There are approximately 25 000 schools across South Africa. The Commission is unable to monitor all of these schools. However, using its provincial offices and stakeholders, the Commission will aim to assess a sample of schools in each province and present to and discuss its findings with the DBE.

The Commission’s findings will be released publically in due course.

Issued by Gushwell Brooks, Communications Co-ordinator, 20 May 2020