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This paper was first published on the NIDS-CRAM website, where all papers are available for download at



After schools closed on the 18th of March 2020 in response to the initial spread of COVID-19 in South Africa, a phased approach to reopening schools was adopted by the government. On the 8th of June, grade 7 and grade 12 pupils returned to school, with grade 6 and grade 11 learners returning on the 6th of July. Schools were then closed again on the 24th of July. This paper describes the partial return to school that occurred during June and July, drawing mainly on the second wave of the NIDSCRAM survey. To what extent was there alignment between the grades that were gazetted to return in June and July and actual school attendance rates by children across the grades? How worried were parents and guardians about sending their children back to school and how did this vary across society? What was the state of readiness of schools to operate under the new COVID-19 regulations? Did school reopening have any observable impact on the spread of COVID-19? Lastly, what can be said about the negative impacts of not being able to attend school on children, whether through nutritional or learning losses? Based on an exploration of these questions several recommendations are then made for the resumption of schooling over the months to come.

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