South African schools are feeling pressure to close due to the spike in new COVID-19 cases. With teachers, parents, and experts also giving their views on this matter.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic came into play, there has been a debate about whether schools in South Africa should open. During June and July, learners have returned to school however at the same time, the number of reported COVID-19 cases has also increased.
News24 has interviewed the professor of higher education and Head of the School of Education at Wits University Felix Maringe, former education MEC Prof. Mary Metcalfe and the Head of Education at Section27 Faranaaz Veriava.
It was reported that Maringe saw the need for the safety of the learners to be prioritized over anything else. He also mentioned that the education department in South Africa should think of ways to improve the education system so that it accommodates the learning time lost during this pandemic.
“There is, unfortunately, a narrative of losing and gaining, and I think that is not very helpful at all. What is important is first and foremost the health and safety of everybody involved in education. If we don’t have the mechanisms and the resources to ensure we will be healthy and safer then, I am always inclined to us closing shop when it comes to schools at this present moment,” says Maringe.
During his interview, Maringe spoke about the lost education during the years of the liberation struggle and how the country made up for that, meaning that they could do the same in the case of this pandemic.
Maringe is certain that if everyone works together, a new and improved education system can be developed so as to make up for the time lost due to COVID-19.
Section27’s Faranaaz Veriava however is concerned that there have not been sufficient measures put in place for schools, with regards to the COVID-19 protocols.
She also mentioned that certain provinces, those which were classified as hotspots for the virus, should have made their own decisions about whether or not to close schools.
“The surge is as a result of opening up and we know we had to open to balance out issues around the economy. What I do think is that we need to make sure there is access to health services, consider whether there should be a lockdown as we get into a surge or as we are now in the eye of the storm and in the long term that protocols for schools are up and running and implemented,” says Veriava.
Metcalfe mentioned that the World Health Organisation had been clear about the best way of opening schools as part of a broad-based comprehensive strategy of low community transmissions.
Meaning that when unions and the minister meet they should apply the department’s own criteria around schools reopening in hotspots and focusing on community transmissions.
Which would mean that certain schools would be opened, while others are not? 😱
However, no student will be left behind because the normal academic year will be spread out to allow them to catch up on missed class time.
“And what it means is that learners will not be forced to cover the curriculum quickly in shorter periods of time in order to pass or fail but that the curriculum recovery process will be a multi-year, both 2020, 2021 and maybe 2022. So, we must stop thinking about the school year in terms of learners passing and failing on a set curriculum,” said Metcalfe.