A senior student is greeted by a teacher, second from right, upon his arrival at the Kyungbock High School in Seoul, South Korea. South Korean high schools reopened on Wednesday after weeks of postponement due to safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Ahn Young-joon/AP
A senior student is greeted by a teacher, second from right, upon his arrival at the Kyungbock High School in Seoul, South Korea. South Korean high schools reopened on Wednesday after weeks of postponement due to safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Ahn Young-joon/AP

Reopening of schools during Covid-19: How other countries have fared

By Lou-Anne Daniels Time of article published May 20, 2020

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Cape Town - The reopening of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic is a contentious issue, with governments across the world struggling to strike a balance between saving the academic year while protecting children from unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus.

Announcing the phased reopening of schools in South Africa on Tuesday night, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga echoed these concerns.

“As much as it was important to save the academic year, the key principles should be informed by the safety of pupils, teachers and workers in our schools.  We must ensure that the reopening of schools does not contribute in any way to the spread of the virus,” Motshekga said.

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has released a framework document to guide governments who are planning to reopen schools.


As South Africa prepares for pupils in Grades 7 and 12 to return to school on June 1, we look at how some other countries who have resumed classes have fared.

Last week France reopened schools for some lower grades and by the time 150 000 junior high students returned to class on Monday the country had reported 70 new Covid-19 cases directly linked to the reopening of schools. To date, the country has had 180 809 confirmed cases and more than 22 000 deaths.

Earlier this week New Zealand, which so far has had 1 503 cases and 21 deaths linked to Covid-19, opened schools for around 800 000 pupils after suspending classes at the end of March. The country has put in place measures to transport pupils to and from school because of the stringent regulations around the number of people allowed on public transport. 

In the United States, which accounts for around 30 percent of the reported global infections, some states started reopening schools on Monday. Over the weekend the Centers for Disease Control released a comprehensive document providing guidelines for the reopening of schools. This despite schools in at least one state, Georgia, having reopened nearly a month ago.

Italy, another country which was hit hard by the pandemic, has chosen to keep schools closed until September. The country currently has 226 699 reported cases and more than 32 000 deaths.

The United Kingdom has set June 1 as the date to reopen schools, but more than a 1000 primary schools have already indicated that they will remain closed in defiance of government's directive. The UK currently has 248 818 confirmed cases and more than 35 000 deaths linked to Covid-19.

The discovery of new coronavirus cases in two students marred the reopening of South Korean  school s on Wednesday, forcing 75 high  school s to turn pupils away.  Some students were sent home almost as soon as they had walked through their  school  gates for the first time this year, after the two high  school  seniors tested positive in Incheon on Wednesday morning, the education ministry said.

The beginning of the spring semester had been postponed several times since March as South Korea battled the first large coronavirus outbreak outside China, with a  total of 11 110 coronavirus cases and 263 deaths so far. 

To date, five cases of Covid-19 infection have been confirmed among students or school staff since most of Finland's primary and lower secondary schools reopened last Thursday. Finland has confirmed 6,399 Covid-19 infections and the death toll has reached 301.

IOL, Reuters and Xinhua

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