Most want schools to not reopen amid Covid-19 second wave concerns, survey shows
Cape Town - The decision to reopen schools in just two weeks has sparked controversy, with a Human Sciences Research Council survey showing that 53% of adults think schools should not reopen until the situation with Covid-19 improves.
According to the survey conducted in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), 19% of other adults believed that schools should reopen for Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils only, 19% thought schools should reopen for all grades, and 9% did not know.
This comes in light of the confusions of unconfirmed reports that the dates to reopen schools have been pushed back to February.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said schools were currently closed and would reopen on January 25 for teachers and January 27 for learners.
During his speech on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “As schools and other educational institutions prepare to begin the new academic year, there is an understandable concern about whether this is advisable in the midst of the second wave of infections.”
He said the National Coronavirus Command Council was dealing with the issue and would provide guidance “in the coming days”.
UJ's Centre for Social Change, Associate Professor Carin Runciman, said the findings of their survey showed that the majority of adults opposed the reopening of schools while Covid-19 cases continued at the current high levels.
Runciman, said that opposition was strongest among the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged sections of society, who were less likely to have confidence in the ability of their schools to provide a safe environment for pupils.
"These findings illustrate that although parents are deeply concerned about their children’s education, that they are equally, if not more, concerned about the safety of their children, their families and communities," she said.
National Association of School Governing Bodies general secretary Matakanye Matakanya said the association supported the department's decision to reopen schools on January 27, however, he called on the department to ensure there was enough personal protective equipment and that social distancing would be observed.
“We are opposed to those who say schools should not open, no one knows when the pandemic will come to an end, we just have to learn to live with it, through complying to regulations,” Matakanya said.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said the second wave of Covid-19 seemed to be more dangerous than the first one. He said the Department of Basic Education (DBE) should be cautious and tread carefully when it came to reopening schools.
Makaneta said the sad part was that the second wave also affected the youth. "It is for this reason that the DBE should postpone the reopening of schools to mid-February so that more strategies can be developed."
Hammond said the WCED was monitoring the status of the pandemic closely in the run-up to schools re-opening at the end of January.
Hammond said their priority would remain the same as before – “to continue delivering a quality education while keeping learners and staff safe”.
"The WCED will implement the protocols and procedures as outlined in the amended directions as released by DBE in October last year. However, we await any possible changes to these directions," she said.
She said the WCED had ensured that all the necessary stationary, textbooks and equipment had been procured as normal, to ensure as smooth a start as possible to the school year.