A social media survey revealed that 53% of adults believe schools should not reopen on January 27, until the country recovers from the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Photographer: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
A social media survey revealed that 53% of adults believe schools should not reopen on January 27, until the country recovers from the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Photographer: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

53 percent of SA adults oppose reopening of schools - survey reveals

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Jan 14, 2021

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A social media survey revealed that 53% of adults believe schools should not reopen on January 27, until the country recovers from the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The online survey conducted through popular #datafree Moya Messenger app saw the response of 10 618 people. It was, however; undertaken by the Centre for Social Change, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in partnership with the Development, Capable and Ethical State of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

According to the survey attitudes towards the opening of schools were consistent by gender. It found that 52% of men and 53% of women believed schools should not reopen until the situation improves again.

The differences on whether schools should reopen differed by income, race and type of accommodation.

About 19% of adults believed that schools should reopen for grades 7 and 12 only, while 9% of adults had no opinion in relation to the matter.

“Those on lower incomes were more likely to oppose reopening schools than those on higher incomes. About 53% of those earning less than R1 000 a month were against schools reopening, compared to 41% of those who earned over R20 000 a month, a difference of 12 percentage points,” the survey highlighted.

Indian adults were the most strongly opposed to schools reopening, with 77% saying that schools should not reopen until the situation improves while coloured and black African adults were also opposed to the reopening, 63% and 52% respectively.

In contrast, only 37% of white adults were opposed to the reopening of schools.

The last online survey conducted at the start of the pandemic in April, last year, showed that 79% of adults were concerned that the pandemic would negatively impact children’s education.

“The findings from the survey show that the majority of adults oppose the reopening of schools while Covid-19 cases continue at their current high levels. This opposition is strongest among the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged sections of society, who are less likely to have confidence in the ability of their schools to provide a safe environment for learners. 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,” says Professor Carin Runciman, UJ Associate Professor at the Centre for Social Change.

The reopening of schools has sparked controversy and a lot of engagement. The topic trended on Twitter twice last week while teacher unions and political parties have also expressed their opinions.

National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said as a collective of unions, they had asked for an urgent meeting with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to discuss the way ahead.

“I've noted the concerns of many people. This is because more people have died in teaching than in any other profession. We have also listened to Professor Salim Abdool Karim giving his opinion that it may be wise to not open schools now, if, in fact, we are close to the peak.

“So we are considering all of those things and listening to academics. The department needs to ensure schools are ready for the start of the academic year with stringent measures in place to protect learners,” said Manuel.

However, the Democratic Alliance said it opposed a possible delay in the reopening of schools.

The party argued that further delays could be catastrophic to vulnerable children and disruptions to the 2021 academic year could have serious effects on learners’ development.

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