In this file picture, pupils put their names to a pledge to save water at Prestwich Primary School. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA Archives)
In this file picture, pupils put their names to a pledge to save water at Prestwich Primary School. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA Archives)

Is public education so inferior that it was easy for state to close schools over Covid-19 fears?

By Time of article published Jul 27, 2020

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By Editorial

The levels of inequality in South Africa continue to soar. While no one wants to be the prophet of doom, it appears that with the emergence of Covid-19 the worst is yet to come.

Early this year, Oxfam International reported that the “world’s 2153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the planet’s population”.

These figures signify the sad reality faced by many impoverished communities across the world, including those in this country, where many households barely know where their next meal or shelter will come from.

Over the years it has become increasingly easy to spot homeless groups of people at every corner in every city.

Oxfam SA recently released a report which stated: “The Covid-19 pandemic has put into sharp focus and exacerbated a number of inequalities and fragilities that haunt the health-care system and constrain it from delivering on its mandate under the South African Constitution and regional and international human rights law in terms of the right to health.”

The report said “those in the health-care profession were underpaid for the amount of work and hours they put in”.

A blatant example of the inequality that continues to ravage our country is the disparity in the education system.

Over the past few years, civil society organisations such as Equal Education have advocated for the government to close the inequality gap by ensuring it improves the public education system and that there is adequate infrastructure and learning material for pupils to receive quality education.

It was therefore no surprise that many people took exception when President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced that only public schools would close for four weeks starting today until August 24, with Grade 12 and Grade 7 pupils attending intermittently from August 11.

Many want to know why an exception was made for private schools.

They have asked if the public ­education system is so inferior that it’s easy to close public schools for the sake of ensuring they do not become breeding fields for the coronavirus, while an elite few are allowed to continue.

Society needs to band together to see how this inequality gap can be closed, as it has the potential to come back and haunt all of us.

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