Although South African schools are re-opening for Grades 7 and 12 only on 1 June, some parents feel it is necessary for much-younger kids to remain at home longer. They believe younger children returning to school poses a bigger threat to their health.
The government’s decision to re-open schools has left many parents divided – some feel it is better for children to be at school rather than to be playing out in the streets where they are prone to contracting Covid-19, while some believe sending their kids to school is unnecessarily exposing them to the virus.
Speaking to Move! a parent shared his concerns about the readiness of children to return to school and the threat it poses to their health.
Mandilakhe Dlula is a 34-year-old father to his 10-year-old son, he believes passing the academic year and progressing to the next is not his main concern right now. The health and safety of his son are more important to him.
“It is not a good idea for the government to reopen schools at this time as the numbers of infected people keep increasing. The learners travel to and from school using public transport and there are a lot of people around and it is easy to contract the virus”.
“My son is 10 years old and you can’t police children during breaktime, children are forgetful, and they play with each other, they share bread, they share sweets, I think it is too soon. As a parent I am not worried about the academic year even if my son has to repeat the year, I am okay with that. I just want my son to live, I want him to be safe.”
Although evidence so far has shown that children are less vulnerable to the effects of the corona virus, they can still be infected and pass it on to others who may be immune compromised around them.
General practitioner Dr Noko Tony Moukangwe says it is important for the younger children to remain at home. “By the nature of the aggressiveness of the virus, we do not know whether schools will abide by the regulations set forth by World Health Organization (WHO) with regards to social distancing and hygiene. Social distancing needs more infrastructure, the schools would need to provide more classrooms and the way that South African schools are set up that is going to be an issue”.
“The way that schools are structured, there won’t be monitoring during break times as staff will be busy preparing for class lessons while children play with each other, bullying is also an issue at schools so children will grab and take each other’s masks, while some will exchange masks and will be in greater risk of contracting the virus.
“Parents must better discipline their children to understand that now is not the time to be outside and playing, they need to better educate their children about the risks of Covid-19. The HIV rate is quite rife in South Africa and so children could be living with a family member with such a condition and their immune system is at risk of contracting Covid-19, so children should not go play as if they contract the corona virus they will infect the family members with weaker immune systems.”
The debate on whether children are ready to return to school continues and decisions on whether or not schools are ready to adhere to social-distancing regulations is still on the table for discussions as more parents voice their concerns regarding the safety of their children.
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