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'No reason' for school closures as 100 Covid-19 child casualties reported, says Action Society

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

"Action Society is confident that there is no reason to further postpone the academic year for other South African children," says Daleen Gouws, spokesperson of Action Society, as Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and partial care facilities open around the country.  

The local pressure group has criticised the government for grounding their decision not to reopen schools on opinion and not scientific evidence.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) 100 casualties of children who contracted Covid-19 were recorded since the outbreak of the pandemic in South Africa.

Also read: This is why schools weren't opened on schedule this year

Low risk

The report, published on 4 December 2020, stated 4042 Covid-19-associated admissions among individuals aged younger than 19 years.

Of these 72% (2911 children) had underlying conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, HIV infection, tuberculosis or other chronic pulmonary conditions.

Gouws admits that no parent should ever mourn the death of their child, but adds that the enormous impact school has on a child's life however overshadows the current risks.

"Our concern and priority therefor lies with the majority of children — who makes out 37% of SA’s population — who are in need of schooling," says Gouws.

Safe at school

Many children are safer and better cared for at school than at home or on the streets.

The issue of abuse and sexual assault was highlighted when Childline South Africa reported a 36.8% increase in calls for help during August 2020, compared to the same month in 2019.

Approximately 9-million children, 77% of children in public schools, also receive a nutritious meal at school. Often this is their only source of food for the day. Child mortality audits show that almost one third of children who die are severely malnourished.

Also read: The 'first day of school' excitement is gone. What now? 

Drop out rates

"The closure of schools in a country where half of all school children drop out and never write their matric papers is worrying," Gouws says.

"Those children will most likely grow up to be innumerate and illiterate adults with a diminished capacity to acquire gainful employment, access reasonable housing and form stable families which we all know are the backbone of a functional society."

"We need to bridge the social inequalities gap with our educational system, not widen the it!" she adds. 

Covid protocols 

Action Society comprehends that some no-fee schools experienced difficulty in implementing protocols such as social distancing and hygiene.

Their argument however is that government should focus their energy to identify these schools and assist them to safely reopen.

"Each school’s circumstances are different... they must be granted the opportunity to decide for themselves how they will organise and handle the Covid-19 situation to benefit both learners and the teachers," she says, adding that many lessons to overcome obstacles have been learnt during the 2020-lockdown period.

She says that most schools are ready and awaiting the go-ahead from government to start the academic year.

Submitted to Parent24 by Action Society 

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