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Parents concerned about safety at schools after return dates set

Now that back-to-school dates have been announced, some parents are worried that their children may have fallen behind on homework during lockdown.
Now that back-to-school dates have been announced, some parents are worried that their children may have fallen behind on homework during lockdown.
Image: 123RF/Langstrup

Parents and guardians are worried their own shortcomings in home schooling will be shown up when schools reopen partially from next week.

Some are also concerned whether adequate hygiene and safety measures will be in place to ensure their children are protected from Covid-19.

Madeline September has two children, one in grade 7 — classes of which are scheduled to resume on May 6 — and the other in grade 9 who is scheduled for a June 17 return to class, according to the Covid-19 basic education sector plan.

“I don’t think May 6 will work. There is so much that needs to be done before we can safely send our children back to school, and what will happen with schools that don’t meet the checklist,” says the concerned Pretoria mom.

With both parents working during the pandemic, Yolanda Kunene has been assisting her siblings with homework since the beginning of the lockdown and welcomes the reopening of schools under safe regulations.

“It’s been really difficult for me and them because I understand that some of the work they were given hasn’t been taught to them due to lockdown so I have had to watch YouTube videos and teach myself so that I can explain to them,” she said.

Kunene says that she can’t help her siblings with all their work because it’s been over five years since she matriculated and some of the concepts are foreign to her.

Jabulani Mkhwente says that he feels so discouraged that he hasn’t been able to help his children during the lockdown and fears that they will fall behind with the curriculum.

“I can’t read well or write well. I stopped schooling in standard 5, back in the day, because there was not enough money to take me and my siblings to school. I wish I could help them,” he said.

The concerned father of two says that he is not comfortable sending his children back to school. “It has been years since the government said it will address access to water and sanitation in the Eastern Cape but they haven’t. They say now they are going to fix it. Until I see it for myself, my kids will stay at home until Christmas if need be,” he said.

Basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli told MPs on Wednesday that the department was planning to phase in the return of pupils to school, starting with grades 7 and 12 pupils. Other grades will return over a period of weeks between May and July, as the lockdown restrictions are gradually eased, with the last batch (grade Rs) expected to go back on July 15.

On social media, some South Africans expressed concerns over health and safety  at schools while others wondered how to keep their children learning through the staggered return to classes — and an expected phased return to work.

Prashna Vallabh commented, “This is scary, sending our children back when the virus numbers are still rising, during winter especially.”

Daniel Steyn said, “That's ludicrous, how are parents going to keep the kids homeschooled until mid July? While they have to work.”

Cherece Keil asked, “What about preschools and nursery schools?”

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