Over 2 million grade R, 6 and 11 pupils have returned to the classrooms  after almost four months at home Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency(ANA)
Over 2 million grade R, 6 and 11 pupils have returned to the classrooms after almost four months at home Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency(ANA)

Parents must not be forced to choose between their child's education or life in these Covid-19 times

By Editorial Time of article published Jul 6, 2020

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This past Friday, a Grade 7 pupil from a school in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, died after she contracted Covid-19 two weeks ago. One of her teachers was heard crying: “Lord, please have mercy on us”.

Her death comes a month after Grade 7 and 12 pupils returned to school, after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga declared that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had approved a decision by the Council of Education Ministers that only two groups return to school in a staggered approach.

More pupils are expected to return to school on Monday. The announcement by Motshekga’s ministry last week has, however, caused an uproar in society as many have described it as “bizarre” that the ministry had initially indicated that Grade R, 6 and 11 pupils would be back at school on July 6. However, the department has since made an about-turn. Only two grades - 6 and 11 - will now return to class.

It has also become common ­knowledge that the rate of coronavirus infections in the country is on the rise, particularly in Gauteng. The number of deaths in the province has also increased.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has long warned that the country will be hit by a massive wave of infections between July and August, and perhaps peaking in September.

This marks a worrying time as many households have lost family members. Many teachers have tested positive for Covid-19 and schools have been closed from time to time to ensure they are sanitised properly before lessons resume.

It is quite evident that the country is facing a huge challenge and requires everyone to group together and adhere to protocols. It is equally important that the NCCC reconsiders some aspects of the lockdown and the regulations passed down to save the lives of many pupils and teachers.

Motshekga held a press briefing on Sunday where she indicated that safety measures had been put in place for all schools across the country.

The right to education is enshrined in the Constitution, as is the right to life. No parent should be compelled to choose between the life of their children or their education.

Therefore, we plead with those who head the government to make wise decisions that will protect our ­children, who are also the future of this country.

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