Teachers and students share their experience of going back to school

Classroom teaching during Level 3 lockdown at Nhlanhlayethu Secondary School.
Classroom teaching during Level 3 lockdown at Nhlanhlayethu Secondary School.

As the Covid-19 lockdown started lifting, and school reopen, South African parents have to make difficult decisions about sending their children back to school before the pandemic is over.

Many parents wrote to Parent24 to share their concerns about their children's safety, while others are excited to send their kids back to a more normal schooling experience. 

We interviewed students and teachers to find out what their experience of the reopening has been so far.

The atmosphere in South African schools

Private schools in most provinces seem to be ready for the return to school following a media statement by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.

One of the managing directors at a private school in the Eastern Cape, Mr Bantu Mniki, told Parent24 that "the teaching is going on relatively smoothly. However, the schooling program is far from being normal due to the everyday screenings, sanitising of hands for staff and learners, and maintaining social distancing in and outside of the classroom." 

Many rural schools have expressed concerns with the relatively small numbers of students that are attending during the lockdown.

In an interview with us, a teacher from Jityaza Combine Primary School said that "we had expectations that student will struggle a little bit, but in time things will move smoothly. Learners are still trying to adapt to this new 'normal' way of learning hence the tension now and then."   

Another teacher from Mount White High school told us that in their school no teaching took place.

He explained, "One student experienced a terrible loss of his big brother from a suspected case of coronavirus."

Often where a school learner experiences loss due to Covid-19, other students tend to isolate, due to fear of being infected.

Emotional support and coping strategies

Mniki, a managing director at Mida High School, told Parent24 that counselling is available from the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

He added that their school had a counselling team in place even before the Covid-19 pandemic. The team deals with everyday challenges faced by learners, and now they also do daily sessions for Covid-19 awareness, to prepare students should they test positive for the virus.

Academic support

A student from Mary mount High School reported that even though WhatsApp groups were created for interaction, the groups are not functional because some of the students have no phones or internet connection.

A teacher from Mdantsane, East London, advised that the students with no internet connection should listen to educational programs available on South African radio stations.

Financial support

In light of the issues highlighted above, both public and private schools have expressed a need for financial assistance. One reason is that the financial aid from the Department of Education has not yet been cleared in some schools.

A Mount White teacher revealed to Parent24 that teachers had taken money from their own pockets to buy cleaning detergents and used some of the funds from the nutrition budget to purchase water tanks, so that students can have clean water to drink and wash their hands.

Almost all the schools that were interviewed by us experienced some financial difficulty, even those that have reopened already. More funds are needed for buying water tanks, classroom materials and fill many other needs.

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