Should schools close as the fourth wave begins? Activists, parents and teachers comment

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"It seems that children are being affected/infected more in this wave than previous waves..."
"It seems that children are being affected/infected more in this wave than previous waves..."

Education Activist Hendrick Makaneta has called on the Gauteng Department of Education to consider closing schools early amid the fourth wave of Covid-19.

"The fourth wave of the pandemic is with us and numbers do not lie. There is no doubt that Gauteng province is the hardest hit," says Makaneta. "It, therefore, makes sense that as activists in the terrain of education we should call on authorities in the province to do something about this unbearable situation and the early closure of schools seems to be the most reasonable and right thing to do."

As Gauteng experiences a surge in Covid-19 cases, health experts have warned us of the possible increases in the number of people admitted to hospitals. 

For this reason, Makaneta suggests that early school closures will better protect the vulnerable teachers and support staff from contracting the virus. 

However, with schools due to close on 15 December, many parents and teachers seem to have conflicting views about this sentiment.

Also see: 'I can't continue to live such a stressful life': Our teachers are not okay

'So many factors to factor in'

According to Kim Mouton, a local mother of one, the decision is "a tough one" as she believes that closing schools a week earlier "wouldn't be the worst idea".

"Schools being closed means parents have to make alternate arrangements for their kids," says Mouton. "Having said that, I am a bit concerned for my own daughter being at school currently, as it seems that children are being affected/infected more in this wave than previous waves."

Jennifer McQuillan, who is an ECD owner and a mother, believes that this decision should be up to the individual schools.

"There's so many factors to factor in," she says. 

At this time of the year, schools are hosting social events such as plays and end-of-year functions. Though McQuillan has personally chosen to not host anything big this year, she says that if precautionary measures are put in place, schools can remain open if they believe it is safe for them to do so.

"Your decision on whether you close or open cannot be a set one. It depends how big you are as a school, whether you're an ECD centre..." she continues. 

"I think we need to look at it holistically and it needs to be an individual decision made. At this time of year, it is important, parents are working, but safety comes first."

"Yes, the symptoms are mild, but we don't want to get Covid in the last week of schools being open."

Also read: Principals are drowning in the education department's admin demands

'It will definitely put pressure on the teachers'

Gauteng-based teaching assistant, Priscilla Dyanti* argues that schools shouldn't close. 

"The teachers have things that are due," says Dyanti. "These things that are due are going to help prepare for next year. If schools close sooner it will mess up some plans. It will definitely put pressure on the teachers."

As some parents have opted not to take their children to school due to the conclusion of their academic work, Susan Khumalo*, a local parent, says that she believes home is the safer option anyway. 

"It's safer for kids to be in the safekeeping of their parents during this time, especially if there are no more classes taking place," says Khumalo. 

*A pseudonym has been used as these individuals have chosen to remain anonymous.

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