SAHRC raises concerns of further learning losses and school drop-outs in aftermath of looting and burning
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With schools set to reopen next week, concerns have been raised that the aftermath of last week’s civil unrest will lead to further learning losses and school drop-outs.
This comes as the Department of Basic Education (DBE) confirms that a total of 134 schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were affected by the looting and burning.
Last week, parts of the two provinces resembled a war zone as looters targeted malls and other businesses, and later torched them. Schools were not spared – some were burned, and food from school feeding schemes was stolen.
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said about 50 schools had been damaged, as well as two educational centres and two circuit offices.
“Obviously there are schools that are adversely affected, that will require us to provide mobile classrooms, which will be very difficult given the budget,” said Mahlambi.
Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) spokesperson Steve Mabona said in a statement on Monday that the department had not experienced any protest-related vandalism over the past week.
“We are, accordingly, preparing for the reopening of our schools for the third term on July 26, as announced by the president,” Mabona said.
DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga confirmed to The Star on Tuesday that 130 schools in KwaZulu-Natal and four schools in Gauteng had been affected by the looting and burning last week.
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said in a statement on Tuesday that the commission noted, with shock and sadness, the looting and burning of schools.
“With schools set to reopen next week, on July 26, the commission is concerned that the aftermath of the civil unrest, along with the effects of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, will lead to further learning losses and school drop-outs,” the commission said.
It called on the South African government, schools and communities to ensure that pupils continue to enjoy their right to a basic education. SAHRC reiterated that schools should be the last to close, and the first to open.
The commission said its approach was reinforced by the “disturbing” statistics from the National Income Dynamics Study (Nids) – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Cram) Wave 5 survey, which revealed that drop-outs had tripled from 230 000 pre-pandemic to approximately 750 000 in May 2021.
The report further revealed that projections indicate that between March 2020 and June 2021 most primary school pupils in South Africa lost 70-100% of learning relative to the 2019 cohort.
“Therefore, the commission calls for every effort to be made by schools and their communities to ensure that learning continues as soon as possible. Learning materials and food must continue to reach all learners, while schools develop comprehensive catch-up plans that ensure that no child is left behind,” the commission said.
Regarding the reopening of school next week, Mhlanga said that the 134 schools that were affected by the burning and looting were a small number out of 25 000 schools.
“The rest of the country is fairly stable and getting ready to open schools next week,” he said.
The national spokesperson added that the department had plans in place to ensure learning continued for the pupils who had been affected by the unrest.
“The majority of them (schools) are still in a good condition for use, so there will be minimal disruptions,” Mhlanga said.