As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases continue to rise, along with an increase in the number of deaths associated with the virus, it has been confirmed that South Africa is currently the fifth worst-affected country globally in terms of coronavirus cases.

The recent rise in the number of confirmed cases is an enormous concern for all South African citizens. Off the back of the spate of alarmingly high cases, reported daily, Education Minister Angie Motshekga may soon announce the closure of schools once again.

The reality is that not all schools within South Africa are fortunate enough to be in a position to protect teachers, pupils and education support personnel by providing them with the necessary protective materials. The view of the government is that schools should be closed with immediate effect to enable the Covid-19 virus to peak and for winter to pass. The closure of schools would furthermore give the Department of Education a timeline within which to work on outstanding issues, including the provision of water, building of toilets and additional classes and teachers in the less fortunate areas of the country. 

Whilst online learning is a tool which has been successfully implemented to support learners with their school curriculum, the one major problem with online learning is that it will have a negative, if not detrimental impact on poor schools within South Africa. Many parents in South Africa are furthermore full time working parents who are then required to homeschool their children, in addition to having worked a full day. 

The reality for many South African children is that going to school means that they will be fed especially because of the large number of job losses which have occurred amongst parents of school going children. From a psychological perspective many children are furthermore feeling the strain of being separated from their friends, and this too is an important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to close schools again.  

The consequences of both closing schools, and allowing them to remain open are far reaching. Neither can be considered as the lesser of the two evils.

Author – Kate Bailey – Hills

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