WATCH | Parents protest at a Cape Town school against pupils going back to class

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  • A small group of parents and residents protested the decision to reopen schools outside a Cape Town school on Monday.
  • Parents expressed their concerns over the coming "peak" in Covid-19 infections.
  • A memorandum was handed over to the school to be given to the provincial department of education.

About 30 parents and Bishop Lavis residents picketed outside the Bergville Primary School in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town on Monday, GroundUp reported.

Protesters, organised by the Bishop Lavis Action Community (BLAC), gathered from 7am outside the school's front gates, calling for it to remain closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ | 'Astounding confusion': Unions criticise DBE on schools not reopening

School for grades 7 and 12 were meant to start on Monday, but the department backtracked at the eleventh hour after confusing and conflicting messages, saying pupils should return to school on 8 June.

Nonetheless, the Western Cape Education Department in its own statement said provincial schools were by-and-large ready and would be welcoming pupils on Monday.

Placards

In Bishop Lavis, picketers held up placards which read: "Not sending my son to his grave", "Keep our teachers safe, our children need them", and "Lose a year, not a life".

Beverley Fortuin, who has a son in matric at John Ramsey High School in Bishop Lavis, said she had decided to keep her son home for now. "I would like my son to go back to school to complete his curriculum but not at the current status of the virus," she said.

At the moment there isn't any guarantee that the schools are safe
Beverly Fortuin, concerned parent

She raised concern over a lack of infrastructure at some schools needed to properly sanitise everyone.

Lindy Michaels has two children in grades 1 and 7 at Bergville Primary. Michaels is concerned about the safety of her children and has also decided not to send them to school.

"With the [infection] numbers rising and teachers getting ill, why are the schools opening today?" she asked.

"I'm concerned about my children's education but their health comes first. I'll send my children back to school once the Covid numbers come down," she said.

Parents Lindy Michaels and Sally de Jonge joined about 30 people picketing outside Bergville Primary School in Bishop Lavis on Monday, calling for schools to remain closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)
Community members picket outside Bergville Primary in Bishop Lavis on Monday. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Hotspot

Victor Alternsteadt, general secretary of the BLAC, said that considering that Cape Town is one of the country's hotspots for Covid-19, "the schools will become the new vectors where this infection will spread and the disease will come into our houses".

"Our schools are not ready. Covid-19 has exposed the inequalities within the education system. Rich schools can opt for homeschooling or online learning. We are sitting with more than 40 children in a classroom. How do you implement social distancing?" he asked.

Alternsteadt also questioned how educators would prevent pupils from playing together. "Students and teachers getting ill would be incredibly traumatic," he said.

A memorandum penned by the group, addressed to provincial Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, calls for the school year to be restarted or for the curriculum to be adjusted for grades 1 to grade 11 pupils.

They also want a "special curriculum" for matriculants in order for them to complete the year.

READ | Here's why the govt backtracked on reopening schools

Other demands included: fixing school infrastructure; free data and headsets for pupils who don't have access to them; and the use of radio and TV for educational purposes.

The memo was given to the school's head who promised to forward it to the department.

Western Cape education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said parents were allowed to keep their children home and could apply for home schooling.

She added that "it is not acceptable to prevent or deny other learners that want to go to school, of their basic rights".

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