Parents express anxiety as kids return to school

Ivory Park Secondary School in Midrand was cleaned and disinfected in preparation for reopening today.
Ivory Park Secondary School in Midrand was cleaned and disinfected in preparation for reopening today.
Image: Felix Dlangamandla

Thousands of grade 12 and grade 7 pupils are expected back at school today amid growing anxiety from parents as the country gradually emerges from the lockdown imposed to contain Covid-19.

At least 95% of public schools will reopen under strict protocols including mandatory masks, hand sanitising and social distancing.

While some parents and pupils are still worried that the measures might not be enough to keep staff and children safe, others remained hopeful.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced yesterday that grade 12 and grade 7 pupils were to resume classes today.

Motshekga said 95% of public schools were ready for re-opening after provinces were given a week to sort out the outstanding deliveries of personal protective equipment as well as the outstanding provision of water and sanitation to the schools.

"It is gratifying to mention that indeed provinces expended their energies to ensure that all prerequisites not fulfilled by May 30 were attended to during the mop-up week. "The golden rule is that there will be no school that will resume if not ready to do so. Alternative measures have been made for the remaining 5% of schools that are not ready by using underutilised spaces in boarding schools and putting other learners in camps," Motshekga said.

Her department, she said, was co-operating with the department of transport to ensure that pupil transport provided meets the health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements on Covid-19.

"Parents who are uneasy about sending their children back to school must follow the law to ensure that their children's right to basic education is unhindered," Motshekga said.

Several parents have, however, voiced their fears and concerns over the safety of their children at school.

Khensani Masango of Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, mother of a grade 7 pupil, said she was worried that pupils will infect each other with the virus.

"I understand all the measures that have been taken by the school. However, I am nervous and worried about my baby. I feel like we will have many cases of sick pupils in these coming weeks as the teachers will not be out in the playing field to monitor these children," Masango said.

Nomonde Nkosi of Freedom Park said there was no way children were not going to hug each other, therefore social distancing would be impossible.

"We know how children are. They have not seen each other for months and they will be excited to see each other tomorrow. I hope there will someone at the gate to monitor that," she said.

A parent, whose grade 7 child will return to Matarapane Secondary School at Lekgwareng village in Bolobedu in Limpopo, said she had not been to school to observe the readiness for re-opening.

"I saw people cleaning the classrooms and toilets last week. We hope our children will be safe and not bring the coronavirus at home," she said. The 46-year-old mother said she would be going to the school as pupils return to classes to see the condition for herself.

Thabo Mohale of Kuranta village said he was worried that his relatives might get infected with coronavirus at Makoma High School.

"The school never had problems with water but my worry is that children can be careless and need to be monitored all the time. I don't feel good about children going back to school because numbers of people infected with coronavirus is skyrocketing," he said.

A grade 12 pupil at Mashooro Secondary School in Mokgwathi village said he missed schooling and can't wait to return .

"I just want to go back and complete my grade. I will make sure that I'm safe and follow all the guidelines to stay safe," he said.

The reopening of schools for grade 7s and matrics was initially expected to resume on June 1 but was postponed for a week as many schools weren't ready.

Department of basic education director-general Matanzima Mweli said out of 23,675 schools, 23,100 were ready for the reopening.

In the Free State, all the 1,123 schools were ready for re-opening. In Gauteng, out of 2,017 schools, 1,917 were ready and in the Western Cape, out of 1,819 schools 1,816 were declared ready.

Mweli said schools in Limpopo (3,711), Northern Cape (556) and North West (1,560) were all ready.

Several teacher unions and governing bodies said they supported the call to reopen schools today with the clear understanding that no school may open that is not Covid-19 compliant.

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