Earlier this week the department of basic education’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, presented their plan for a phased approach to reopening schools. In it they proposed pupils could return to school from 6 May.
Parents took to social media to express their concerns about the proposed plan, many pointing out the risks their children would be exposed to.
DRUM did surveys on Twitter and Facebook to find out what some of their concerns were.
On Twitter, 91% of people who responded said they thought the tentative date for the reopening of schools (6 May) wasn’t a good decision by the government. 5% of respondents said they agreed with the decision and 4% said they didn’t care.
87% of parents who participated in the poll said they’d rather have their children repeat the school year than go back to school too early, while 13% said they’d prefer their children return to school on the proposed date.
On Facebook, 128 readers shared their feelings about their children potentially returning to school during the pandemic.
“The problem with this is that classes are overcrowded. If the government finds a means of adding temporary classrooms to fix the matter before they reopen schools, that would be a relief. [We can’t have] 40 students in one classroom,” Mary Mathabiso Mofolo said.
“I’m not happy. It’s premature and will put children’s lives at risk,” Comfort Scara Mashabela wrote. “They took this decision without considering the poor rural communities and townships. Their children attend private schools of 10 to 20 children per class with quality infrastructure. You can’t compare this to rural public and township schools that normally have 50 children per class and 10 toilets for the entire school.”
In contrast, Cyn Rank said there was no cause for concern. “I do not have a problem with my child going back to school, she’s in Grade 3. I know she will be going to school in July as there will be social distancing in the classrooms, screen tests, sanitising, plus attention for each child in the classroom.”
“Abasekhaya abantwana (My children) are not going anywhere,” Refifi Fenty wrote. “We have made peace with the fact that they will be repeating grades next year. There is no way in hell we are sending them into the lion’s den. The younger one has already said the government is drunk.”
Seventeen-year-old Lethabo Maphefo Chiloane, a matric student at Unity Secondary School in Daveyton, Gauteng, tells DRUM she thinks going back to school would cause the number of infections to increase.
“Going back to school will only increase the number of cases and take us back to level 5. And I'm not about to risk my life. For example, some township schools don't have proper school infrastructure, such as proper toilet facilities and classrooms. Why can't we all adhere to the regulations of level 4? We are still far from being at level 2 or 1. We cannot afford to take risks. This is only going to put the lives of both teachers and learners in danger. Most of the township schools are overcrowded.”
Lethabo says she would rather repeat the academic year once the pandemic ends. “I for one would rather sacrifice my academic year than sacrifice my life. That's just my opinion. All of us potentially risk contracting the virus and yes, I'm concerned about contracting the virus.”
On Thursday evening the department of basic education briefed the nation, outlining plans to ensure teaching and learning resume as the country fights the coronavirus pandemic.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga and her higher-education counterpart Blade Nzimande said that Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils may start returning to school from 1 June, depending on the department's plans to ensure that schools are safe and Covid-19 compliant.