MANY South African parents are supporting calls for the closure of schools amid the rising coronavirus infections.
They are reluctant to allow their children back into schools, saying current disinfection efforts by government are not enough to convince them it is safe.
One parent refusing to send his child back to school said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has yet to make protective gear (PPE) available for all children.
Currently, SA is struggling to contain the virus, which has infected more than 364 328, with more than 5 033 deaths.
Inside Education spoke to several parents about their fears and concerns|
NONTSOKOLO MHLOTSHANA: Free State
Nontsokolo Mhlotshana will not risk sending her two children, one in Grade R and another in Grade 8, back to school just yet.
“The school year should have been cancelled. Until we as parents can be guaranteed safety for our children,” says the mother from Botshabelo in the Free State.
“I can’t stay home for safety reasons and take my child back to the streets. As a mother my first job is to protect my children, no, and I have no intention of taking them back to school anytime soon,” she says.
“I feel like the minister is inconsiderate and makes her decision based on what she wants to achieve and not the safety of our children. If COVID-19 is a pandemic, why should our children go back to school? Am not happy by this decision and the fact that the minister does not want to hear our plea as parents, means she doesn’t care.”
JOHN MASHIANE: Limpopo
John Mashiane, a father of two boys of school-going age, was almost shaking at the thought of his 15-year-old son, Tshepo Mashiane, who is in Grade 8 at Mosepedi High School in Lebowakgomo, Limpopo, going back to school.
The ongoing debate on whether children should stay at home or return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has left Mashiane in a state of fear.
“These schools must just close. There is no way that our children can survive in those old ragged schools. It’s cold there and this thing [COVID-19] excels in winter. Why can’t they listen to us?” Mashiane asked.
His seven year old son, who goes to Hwelereng Primary School, throws a tantrum every morning because his parents do not want him to go to school.
“He doesn’t understand. He wants to go to school to play. That’s why I want him to remain home he cries,” adds Mashiane.
KHULISO MUSUBI: Limpopo
Limpopo mother Khuliso Musubi has decided that she won’t allow her eight-year-old son to go back to school.
“He’s currently doing Grade 2. I feel like he doesn’t understand or will be able to follow the rules of social distancing especially in the transport taking them to school, washing hands, as I know even at home we have a problem of having to remind him every time,” says Musubi, whose son attends Mungomani Primary in Nzhelele, Limpopo.
She feels that teachers won’t be able to manage or look out for every child and putting on a mask the whole day for the little lad would be a challenge.
She also fears that if her son contracts covid-19 he may infect his 60 year old caregiver with dire consequences.
“I have choose to save his life and of his grandmother; I know the foundation phase is important in his life but if it means he has to repeat the grade next year its ok than to lose him.”
NELISWA CHEMANE: KwaZulu Natal
For Neliswa Chemane, deciding whether to send her 12-year-old daughter back to school was met with mixed emotions. Her daughter is in Grade 7 and she believes this was a critical phase in her education life and will determine her future.
“At the moment I’m undecided because I feel if she doesn’t attend classes she won’t be able to achieve good marks. I had planned to apply for high school scholarships in some of the prestige schools in the province. So this confusion going on will certainly affect her chances of attaining the scholarship,” said Chemane, whose daughter attends the Siyabonga Senior Secondary in Durban’s Ilovu Township, KwaZulu-Natal.
She said the distressing and disturbing situation had also been compounded by the mere fact that her daughter is asthmatic and she fears sending her to school will render her vulnerable to COVID-19.
“So we are now exploring the home schooling method. But the system itself poses challenges because there is no clear process from the provincial department of Basic Education as to what process to follow in order to apply for home schooling,” she added.
CHRISTINE BAME: Gauteng
Christine Bame is the mother of Thato Bame 17 year old Grade 12 learner at Westridge High School, and Kgotatso Bame Grade 2 at Spark School.
“Honestly I’m not comfortable at all with the whole thing. This virus is spreading so fast and right now lot of teachers are reporting that they are positive. You as my child might assure me that you grown-up and that you will be able to adhere to the rules (Washing hands, sanitizing and wearing your mask all the time) but reality is when you see your friends, you’ll gonna hug and kiss. I would rather my child repeat a grade than me having to bury my child.
I would opt for home schooling I don’t mind buying data for my child to get home work or even attend a class online daily… he government officials have meetings online not parliament but schools are open.”
“We need to apply our minds on some situations… I feel Angie has failed our educators. I am not happy with at all with not just you, but every child out there going to school, I would advise them to consider online tutoring for those that can afford or even assist learners with computers and data that is strictly to be used for attending classes online. The union needs to stand up for our learners and I strongly support them with their recent protect against teachers and schools opening and dying due to COVID-19 while nothing is being done.”
(Reporting by Inside Education staff)