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No masks, no school. Find out what the new school year looks like

Here’s what the rest of the school year will look like for learners in South Africa as the country continues to adjust to life with COVID-19.  

Resource details:

Publication title: Amended re-opening of schools under Coronavirus/COVID-19 lockdown

Author(s): Department of Basic Education

Publication date: 1 June 2020

What the directives are about:

The department of education outlines the preventative measures that need to be in place when public and private schools reopen under level three of South Africa’s lockdown. The document also proposes new dates for school terms and exams. These directives serve as an amendment to directives issued on May 29 2020.   

Key take-aways from the directives:

Phased-in return to school:

  • Grade 7, 12 and year 4 schools of skills learners will return to school on June 1, 2020
  • Learners attending early childhood development facilities —  i.e. those in Grade R or lower — will return on July 6, 2020. They will be joined by learners in Grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11. In the case of learners attending schools of skills [schools offering alternative education for learners who are unable to cope in mainstream schools],  learners in years 2 and 3 will also return on this date.
  • Grades 4, 5, 8 and 9 learners will return to school on August 3, 2020 along with year 1 learners of schools of skills. 
  • Schools are permitted to change their opening dates provided that they meet the minimum health, safety and social distancing requirements and formally apply to the provincial head of department for the necessary approval. 
  • The education department may monitor schools to ensure that they comply with the outlined criteria.
  • Aftercare facilities associated with schools, as well as those in education support centres, can reopen along with schools on the condition that they meet the minimum health, safety and social distancing requirements.
  • Schools that fail to meet minimum health, safety and social distancing requirements will not be allowed to reopen until these criteria are satisfied. The education department will make the necessary arrangements to ensure that learners aren’t disadvantaged and continue to receive the support to meet curriculum outcomes.


Health, safety and social distancing requirements:

  • Schools have to ensure that they have adequate amounts of 70% alcohol hand sanitiser available to cater to learners and staff. Schools also need to provide facilities to wash hands with clean water and soap.
  • Work surfaces and equipment have to be regularly cleaned. This includes common areas, toilets and regularly touched surfaces such as door handles. 
  • All learners and staff have to wear cloth masks, as well as anyone entering school premises.
  • Social distancing of at least 1.5 metres must be adhered to. To ensure compliance with this, school facilities are allowed to operate at 50% or less of their capacity and can institute alternative timetables to make provision for this. 
  • Schools with large enough facilities that enable them to comply with the 1.5 metres social distancing requirements, don’t need to change their timetables and also don’t have to operate at a lower capacity.

The amended school year:

Along with these directives the government school year has been amended

  • The second term will have 44 school days running from 8 June to 7 August.
  • The third term will have 31 school days and will start on 12 August and end on 23 September. 
  • The fourth term will run from 5 October to 15 December (52 school days).

You can find and download the directives here.

[Please note: Information on the new coronavirus is rapidly changing. Please refer to the department of basic education website for the latest information. Visit for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]

Gopolang Makou was the impact and engagement officer at Bhekisisa.