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No, South Africa’s president didn’t announce 11-hour school day under Covid-19 alert level 1

On the evening of 16 September 2020 South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 would be eased and the country moved from alert level 2 to level 1 from 20 September.

As he was delivering his speech, a message appeared on the Facebook page “CYRIL Ramaphosa”, described as a “personal blog”.

“As we move to level 1 all schools will start at 06:00 till 17:00,” it reads. “Are we clear?”

The post has been shared over 1,200 times and viewed by more than 440,000 users in less than 24 hours.

Did Ramaphosa say that pupils would have to attend school for 11 hours, from 6 am to 5 pm, under level 1?

Schools determine hours

“CYRIL Ramaphosa” – @CYRIL-Ramaphosa-101849044788190 – is an imposter page, created as recently as 15 March 2020.

The president’s real page – @Cyril-Ramaphosa-171341793665909 – was created on 11 March 2018 and shows a blue tick, which proves it has been verified by Facebook.

There is no recent announcement about school hours on this page. And Ramaphosa did not mention schools in his speech.

Under the department of basic education’s plan to gradually reopen schools, the longest hours a school may be open is from 7:30 am to 4 pm.

“Schools may consider and apply any of the following available models suitable for their context and functionality,” the department said in a Government Gazette notice published on 29 May.

The models are optional, and designed to maintain social distancing. One is “platooning”, in which one set of pupils would attend a morning session from 7:30 am to 12 noon, and a second set from noon to 4:30 pm. But no pupil would have to attend both sessions.

The Facebook message is false. – Mary Alexander



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