On the one hand, education advocates warn about the long-term impact of disruptions to the school year, which has already lead to an alarmingly low school attendance rate, the lowest in the last two decades due to the pandemic.
On the other, concerned parents and teachers fear that schools are not ready to implement Covid-19 safety measures properly, posing a risk to public health.
Readers took to social media to share their differing opinions, and some wrote to us to express their thoughts on the Department of Basic Education's decision to return pupils and teachers to normal schooling.
'Positive cases do not get reported'
Writing to Parent24, one mom shared that her son was sent home by the second day of school due to a positive case of Covid-19 in his class.
"Because of this, he has got to quarantine... I have also instructed his four siblings not to go to school for the next two weeks in fear that they too might be in contact, therefore, exposing them to greater risk," she told us.
The concerned mom thinks the decision to reopen schools was premature.
"The return was announced too quickly as the numbers of infection were still reported to be escalating, especially in the Western Cape," she said, adding that schools should prepare for the worst.
A teacher who wishes not to be named agreed and urges that better measures be carried out to ensure schools follow protocol.
"Teachers don't wear masks in class, and neither do learners. Sanitiser is used maybe twice a day. Schools are dirty and positive cases do not get reported".
The return of learners vs social distancing requirements
Another teacher proposes schools go back to staggered schedules instead of full-time attendance and believes that normal classes will deter their school's efforts in teaching learners about Covid-19 safety measures.
"Since August last year, the children at our school have been attending in two groups on a rotational basis to allow for social distancing. The school has advised the DBE that they cannot meet both the return of learners and social distancing requirements. Now learners must return full-time from next week regardless? We have spent the last year teaching our kids to social distance. What will they think and feel when they are forced into a situation where social distancing is not an option?"
'What is going to come of this generation?'
Writing via social media, a reader said: "Children must go to school full-time. This thing of them staying home and walking the streets all day makes no sense. What is going to come of this generation?"
Another agreed, adding: "Our children are going crazy staying at home bored, they want to be in school," and another said that "Kids are not dying by the thousands or even tens. Personally I don't want a 23-year-old in Grade 7, so off to school he goes".
Another reader questioned whether schools will ever truly be ready given the lack of basic necessities such as electricity and running water which has been a reality long before the pandemic, "what a sad state schools are in," she noted.
How do you feel about the reopening of schools?
Share your stories and questions with us via email at email@example.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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