The long awaited address by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga seems to have raised more questions than she answered, as she announced that Grade 7 and Grade 12 will return to school on 1 June.
Covid-19 infection rates are rising rapidly, and the promised school safety measures seem near impossible for some, Parent24 has been inundated with mails and messages from concerned parents.
Earlier this week we covered Will it be safe to send your kids back to school? And what happens if you don't?, where we chatted to local Paediatrician Professor Gray about whether it would be safe to return, and asked Advocate Kaiél Grobler what would happen to parents who kept their kids out of school this year.
We also chatted to local parents about their thoughts on sending their kids back before the pandemic is over, in 'My child is not a guinea pig': Will you send your kids back to school this year?
But with the now official announcement that Grades 7 and 12 will be allowed to return to school on 1 June, parents have a new set of questions and concerns, and as one parent put it many are "dead set against" sending their kids back in June.
Risk to the family
For many, the main issue is exposure to Covid-19, not just as a risk to their children, but as a risk to the rest of the household.
One mom wrote to say that "someone needs to fight for us" adding that she has "6 kids in our house hold, I have a husband with a heart condition, a mother of 71 and a child with a small lung problem. If the kids go to school and get the virus, what about these people with chronic illnesses?"
Also see: As schools re-open, are the kids a risk to elderly caregivers?
A concerned dad asked who will take responsibility, if his kids get infected, and who will pay the hospital bills?
Another father wrote to say "I strongly believe this is a huge mistake. If the government can guarantee us our kids won't get the coronavirus then we can gladly send them back to school. I think its a very silly decision to send the future generation as a test object, to see if the pandemic will effect them."
One parent pointed out that South Africa has been commended so far for acting swiftly "but to send vulnerable kids back to school when our lockdown hasn't yet reached a safe level is quite careless. The rule is that kids aren't allowed in malls and shops, but can go to school facing 1000s?"
Add to this, the concerns about a new Kawasaki-like disease that is affecting kids who have coronavirus antibodies, as revealed in a recent Italian Lancet study.
Many expressed concern about the health and safety of children wearing masks for many hours a day, not to mention losing them, swapping them with other kids and so on.
Another hot topic is the issue of physical distancing at school. In South Africa's overcrowded classrooms, how are students going to sit 2m apart?
As dad Bongane mailed to say "Kids are kids! How is the school going to monitor where one leaner maybe borrows from another learner, a book, a pen, or how are they going to monitor kids going to the toilets? This is really a problem."
Then there is the issue of adequate and safe toilets and access to water, raising serious concerns about hygiene and hand washing at schools.
While Minister Motshekga's address (see it in full here) touched on these points, for many parents there are still more questions than answers, and more concerns than clarifications.
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