Where did we find the money to fight the Covid-19 outbreak?
How will South Africa's public schools cope with coronavirus? The government closed schools on March 18.
Private schools closed even earlier. Private schools went into high technical mode by using the internet to post worksheets to pupils so that the disruption of closing schools earlier would be minimised.
Former model C schools with the technology available did like-wise. Eighty percent of government schools service poor communities, many of who have no access to the internet at home. The only access will be at their schools. The response to the threat posed by the coronavirus will be experienced differently in the artificially created social groups in South Africa.
Many rich individuals, companies and governments are donating freely to curb the spread of this deadly disease. They must be lauded for their generosity and I am sure their contribution will go a long way to curbing the spread. Now, once we have successfully combated this dreaded virus, will it be business as usual? Will the rich, well-off businesses and our government continue donating resources to the majority of citizens in this country? This can be asked of the entire world.
When the poor all over the world take to the streets protesting about all the ills in society (lack of jobs, more teachers, better physical structures at schools, better qualified teachers, no properly constructed homes, lack of playing facilities for children in squatter camps, etc) the response of the rich, the businesses and government is that there is no money.
With the coronavirus threat, we have seen the world, and mainly the capitalist world, finding the non-existent money to fight the disease. No doubt the disease must be fought on all fronts and we must support the fight to eradicate this world-threatening disease. Is the response to this virus because it started to affect the rich and therefore, this overwhelming response by the rich?
Why do we not have an overwhelming response to other diseases which are preventable, such as tuberculosis, HIV and malnutrition? Why do we plan compact and dense housing in poor areas where the wealthy have access to vast pieces of land and huge houses? Why are the schools of the poor so understaffed, teachers overworked and parents responsible for fund-raising to give their children a better chance in life?
Being a principal for 32 years, I raised the conditions of poor schools a thousand times with the Education Department. The circuit managers, directors of education, heads of education, members of the executive councils in the Western Cape have all said there was no money. I always argued that it was their responsibility to find the money – that is why they were appointed in those positions. Now, with the advent of this dreaded virus, money has been found.
I hope that when the government and big business reflect on the virus issue once we have conquered it, it will not be business as usual.
Hopefully all of us, especially government and big business, will work hand in hand with the poor of this country. Hopefully, government will relook at its housing strategy.
Give poor people a decent size plot with ample space to add on and comfortable playing area for their children. Schools will be supported by both the public and private sector. Tear down the three- and four-storey flats in the “townships” and build single houses for the poor.
If we do this now and not wait until the viral epidemic is over, then we will create a South Africa we can all be proud of.
* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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