Call for education department to listen to what children say about schooling
Cape Town - The Western Cape Commissioner for Children, Christina Nomdo, has called on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to listen to the voices of children when making "important" decisions about schooling, saying that children have a right to be involved in all decisions affecting their lives.
Nomdo said the full range of the cost of distance learning was not always considered. Many children lived in home contexts which were not conducive for learning, having to contend with a cramped physical space and distress about domestic violence.
"Other issues affecting the mental health of children are not seeing friends and having to contend with enormous workloads."
This after the department announced that it would be delaying the reopening of schools by two weeks amid the Covid-19 second wave.
Public schools were scheduled to reopen on January 27, while most private schools had already begun their 2021 academic year.
During the announcement on Friday, Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule said that owing to the impact of the coronavirus, the Council of Education, in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and the cabinet had taken the decision to delay the reopening of schools to February 15, in order to provide relief to the health-care system.
Nomdo said delaying the reopening of schools for everyone goes against the advice of the SA Paediatric Association president, Professor Mignon McCulloch, who pointed out that primary school learners could go back to school on time. However, the department noted that the delay would allow schools to prepare adequately for the children’s safe return.
In her consultation with children, titled #learninginCOVIDtimes, Nomdo said children emphasised that they wanted adults to protect them from being infected by the virus at schools.
"Children say they need schools to be fully prepared with personal protective equipment and to follow all health protocols to keep them safe. Children want teachers, for example, to strictly model good behaviour and adhere to health protocols and not to pull down their masks when teaching in class."
She said school management should also consider how to make learning easier if distance learning is implemented.
The chairperson of the provincial Representative Council of Learners, Alessio Marcus, said the government needed to practise child participation and should have included learner leaders within their structures of representative councils of learners when making decisions.
Marcus said he hoped that the government would think of the importance of child participation in the future and include children in decision-making processes that would directly affect them.
A Grade 10 learner at Lavender Hill High, Robin Lewin, who is also one of the child government monitors in the office of the Commissioner for Children, said she felt that learners would have a lot of work to do and to catch up on it in a short space of time.
Lewin said teachers might also feel pressured to go over the work more quickly than they would normally have.