Education Minister Angie Motshekga has had to ride out the storm over the past seven days, after she confirmed that children would go back to school on Monday 1 June. This date will also be the first day South Africa enters Level 3 of lockdown – but the Cabinet member is fully aware that things could change instantly.
Speaking during The Big Debate, Angie Motshekga made it clear that the country could quite easily move back a lockdown phase if the infection rate starts to rise uncontrollably once more. She says that schools could be closed if the education authorities found ‘difficulties’ in trying to keep learning environments safe.
“If things are not working, we will have to go back to Level 4; the same with education – if we open and we experience difficulties, there is nothing stopping us from closing schools. We are dealing with something we do not know. When we have to reverse, we will, but we cannot be standing on the banks forever.”
Motshekga also went on the defensive with regards to the government’s Level 3 decision itself. Vocal critics – particularly those from the EFF – say it’s too early to move ahead with the restrictions.
However, the minister has reminded South Africans exactly what the point of a lockdown is: It cannot eradicate the disease, but rather, it serves to help the government prepare and avoid an ‘overwhelming’ of the healthcare system. According to the Cabinet, the time is right to take a tentative step forward.
“When we declared lockdown, we said it was only to flatten the curve of infections. We’re now at the stage where we think the health system can cope with a rise in cases. We must keep informing ourselves and remembering what the intention of these regulations were.”