New school closures a victory, or a disaster?

Schools are closed again
Schools are closed again

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 23 July that all public schools will "take a break" for four weeks from 27 July to 24 August, parents around South Africa had strong reactions.

For some it's a welcome relief as they feel their decision to keep their children home from school has been justified, for others it's a disaster as they now have just a day to organise child care and a return to homeschooling. 

For many concerned and frightened teachers, the announcement will come as a relief, as a return to remote learning will offer them a break from the daily stress of exposure risk and adhering to the Covid-19 safety protocols. 

However, not everyone is ordered to stay at home for the full four weeks, and Grade 12 pupils and teachers will only take a week-long break before returning on 1 August. Grade 7 pupils will take a two week break before returning on 10 August.

A victory?

For the parents behind the Save our Children Facebook group, the announcement is a victory, but the admin team have vowed to keep up the fight. 

Admin Abdul Karriem Matthews wrote "It's a victory for our cause. We were correct to call for and agitate for the schools to close. We salute all the parents and teachers for your stance of keeping your children at home and the daily protest actions." 

But he doesn't stop there. 

"We must remain vigilant. We must agitate for Angie and her 9 MECs to be charged with the state sanctioned murder of our teachers. We must agitate for Mkhize and his 9 MECs to be charged with state sanctioned murder of our health workers. We will not forget and we will not forgive," he writes.

Public vs Private?

The brief announcement has left some families in confusion as what the closures could mean for private schools. 

Parents have pointed out that many private schools are in fact on holiday now and will be until late August anyway, while some have commented that closing only public schools amounts to discrimination. 

And what about ECDs and daycares? As these fall under the Department of Social Development and were recently ordered by court to re-open, it's as yet unclear how this will impact them.

Ramaphosa also announced that the current academic year will be extended beyond 2020, but as for more than that he only said that the details will be communicated in due course.

The purpose of this school closure is to lower the infection rate. It is not a holiday, and pupils will be expected to continue learning.

*This is a developing story

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