When Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that schools will be re-opening on 1 June, for Grade 7 and Grade 12 students it caused an uproar across the country as parents raised their concerns and objections.
The common theme in their protests is that the risk is too high, and that school-going children will spread the Covid-19 virus amongst themselves, and carry it home to vulnerable family members.
These concerned parents are committed to keeping their children out of school until it is safe to return, and they're gathering online in a Facebook group called Save Our Children.
Since the group's creation in early May nearly 40 000 concerned stakeholders, including parents, teachers and students, have joined the group.
The group's about section reads "We are concerned parents and allies opposed to the planned reopening of schools in S.A. for the 2020 academic year."
We reached out to founders Abdul Karriem Matthews and Jodie Leigh Michaels to find out more about the movement.
- 'My child is not a guinea pig': Will you send your kids back to school this year?
- It's time': Parents come out in support of the re-opening of schools
- 'Dead set against sending my child to school': Parents respond to DBE announcement
"As concerned parents," Matthews told Parent24, "we have serious reservations about the reopening of the schools. We are particularly concerned that the State wants to reopen the schools in the context of a daily infection rate of over 700."
Guarantee the safety of our children
"This very same government has not announced the reopening of parliament nor the return of university students. We simply refuse to send our children back to school given that the State is unable to guarantee the safety of our children and teachers," he said.
He explained that the group is calling for schools to remain closed until such time that the infection rate is under 100 per day, as originally suggested by the government medical expert, Professor Salim Abdool Karim.
"The State must use this time to fix the dismal state of public education, such as the failure to deliver textbooks on time, broken infrastructure and mud schools. They must use this opportunity to redesign the curriculum, employ more teachers to fill the current vacancies, build more teacher training colleges and roll out fibre and other technologies to all public schools."
Matthews explained the group is calling for a nation wide mass stayaway on 1 June 2020.
"This will be a mass campaign until such time that the State listens to the voices of parents and teachers," he told us.
"Rather miss a grade than dig a grave, rather promote to the next grade than dig a grave."
Three more months
Also behind the call to keep schools closed is former leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mmusi Maimane.
"As a father and an uncle, I fundamentally disagree with this rushed and ill-advised decision," he has announced, and is leading a petition to government to close schools for a further three months. So far, over 175 000 people have signed it.
"Opening schools at this stage poses a risk and danger to all students, teachers and support staff as all credible indicators suggest that infections have not yet peaked," he maintains.
"We cannot risk allowing our country’s places of learning to become petri-dishes for increases in infections which may undo the value of the national lockdown."
He says the proposal for schools to remain closed for a further three-month period is the most sensible choice, and that based on the Minister’s address and the data at hand, it seems highly unlikely all 24 000 schools across South Africa, many without basic infrastructure and water supply, will be Covid-proof within the coming days.
Are you sending your Grade 7 or 12 pupil back to school on 1 June?
Share your thoughts with Parent24. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com