- Section 27 wants to be admitted as friends of the court in the ACDP case that aims to halt children from being vaccinated against Covid-19.
- The organisation says vaccinating children will ensure schooling goes back to normal.
- Uncertainty because of the pandemic, the organisation argues, has had negative effects on children's mental health.
The fastest way to ensure all South African children get a chance at a decent education is if they are vaccinated and return to full-time schooling.
This is the argument Section 27 is making in its application to be friends of the court in the case between the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.
The ACDP wants Phaahla to stop vaccinating children against Covid-19.
The organisation - in its application to the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to be friends of the court - stated that since the pandemic started, children in mostly public schools had missed out on crucial class time.
The health department is currently vaccinating children aged 12 to 17.
Parties who opposed Section 27, had until Tuesday to do so. Section27's Boitumelo Masipa said so far, no one had opposed the application.
By Tuesday, 477 131 children had been vaccinated with one dose of Pfizer.
In her founding affidavit, Section 27 executive director, Umunyana Rugege, said: "The systematic overcrowding of our poorest schools... has meant that the majority of public schools in South Africa have had to adopt a rotational timetable so as to implement social distancing requirements."
Rugege said staying in lockdown meant education outcomes for children in poorer schools had been negatively affected.
"Studies looking into the impact of Covid-19 on schooling consistently suggest that learners attending better-resourced schools (such as former Model C and private schools) have continued to learn with minimal disruptions, by attending schools daily when schooling has been allowed, or have managed to learn online during school closures.
Rugege also added that lockdown had also had a significant impact on children's mental health.
"[Lockdown] has led to an increase in stress and anxiety experienced by adolescents, brought about factors that include the fear of infection, uncertainty over lockdowns and school closures and challenges associated with adjusting to the pandemic conditions."
In her supporting affidavit, Shaheda Omar - clinical director at the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children - said the closure of schools meant that many children were cut off from the regular channels of being able to report abuse.
She said lockdown led to children losing their routine, food security and the inability to interact with peers. This, she said, had left children "feeling helpless, hopeless, out of control, and often confused".
Through their work, Omar said, they had recognised an increase in patterns of "aggression, bullying, verbal abuse, and disruptive behaviour".
"We have also identified an increasing number of children displaying withdrawn behaviour, loss of appetite, a lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed and sleeping disturbances. These behaviours are normal responses to an abnormal situation, which many are unable to process."
She said vaccinating children might lead to a return to a normal life.
"Many children will remain at risk as long as they are unable to return to any semblance of a normal life. I understand that this can only happen with high levels of vaccination."
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