As we are amid the battle against the Coronavirus, we have heard government saying that strict health guidelines have been drawn up regarding the operation of schools, including limiting pupils to 40 in a class, compulsory mask-wearing and the sanitisation of hands, classrooms and scholar transport.
However, since the number of infections is rising on a daily basis, even considering recoveries, how did government arrive at the decision to open schools so soon?
The United Democratic Movement Women’s Organisation (UDEMWO) therefore calls on Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to take the country, and parents, into confidence on whether her department is ready and able (financially and practically) to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for each and every school; for each and every child; each and every day.
We have heard disconcerting stories that government cannot even provide enough PPE at our healthcare institutions, never mind institutions of learning! This especially is a massive concern for scholars in disadvantaged areas, where parents struggle to provide food for their children and PPE is financially out of reach.
There are a number of other concerns, such as, how the department is going to resolve scholar transport? Children, under “normal circumstances”, are wrongly loaded into vehicles like sardines, how on earth will it be feasible to transport thousands of children, considering the need for social distancing?
What control measures are going to be put in place to maintain social distancing during breaks? Also, if no more than two pupils should share a desk, how is government going to handle schools that have large volumes of school-goers?
Even though we realise that lockdown and partial lockdown (level 4) is eating away at the school year, UDEMWO is of the view that government may be jumping the gun in opening schools. At this rate, we are running a real risk of allowing the Coronavirus to run rampant through our communities by opening schools at this point in time.
Ms Thandi Nontenja
UDEMWO Secretary General