Whilst South Africa rides the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic the latest sector to be affected by increase in the rise of the infection is our education sector. As anticipated by many parents and teachers throughout the country, Deputy Minister Mhaule announced that the Department of Basic Education had decided to postpone the reopening of all schools by a further two weeks from the 27th January 2021 to the 15th February 2021. Private schools that had reopened already will also be required to postpone their reopening to a later date.
The announcement has received a mixed reaction, but fundamentally the postponement to reopen schools at a later date is to provide relief to the health system, which is struggling to cope with the current demands from those infected by the virus.
For many parents, this delay in schools reopening is incredibly frustrating. Whilst many parents are working during the day and they are unable to homeschool their children, they also believe that their children need more structure in their lives, and there is some evidence that schools may in fact be safer for children in a controlled environment, rather than outside it. For other parents the delay in the schools reopening is an enormous relief. With the death rate in the region of 800 people per day from Covid-19, it is little wonder that there is a sense of relief for not only parents of school going children, but the teachers too.
It becomes impossible to know when a decision can be made as to when schools will safely be able reopen. This is the problem that turns the impact of Covid-19 from something that disrupts our society for a period of, say, five years (at worst), to a problem that becomes generational, a problem that our society cannot recover from.
The debate as to the reopening of schools will be an ongoing one in which only time will tell what the outcome will be.
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Author – Kate Bailey Hill