It's a relief that schools reopening won't be happening very soon

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
About 100 grade 11 pupils at Ndyebo-Ntsaluba Senior Secondary School at Situmba village in Tsomo, Eastern Cape, sit in one classroom because of lack of infrastructure at their school. This could be a breeding ground for coronavirus./Masi Losi
About 100 grade 11 pupils at Ndyebo-Ntsaluba Senior Secondary School at Situmba village in Tsomo, Eastern Cape, sit in one classroom because of lack of infrastructure at their school. This could be a breeding ground for coronavirus./Masi Losi

I reflected on the reopening of schools and I thought it was a terrible idea. I am relieved it is not going to happen soon.

I think the idea of opening schools should be abandoned until there is a clear sign that the curve is flattening.

One of the reasons being the overcrowding of classes. I was recently in conversation with an educator at a primary school in Diepsloot; she told me that one of her classes has 80 pupils. I cannot foresee any possibility for social distancing in such a set-up.

The lived reality of black teachers in particular are a reminder of the inequalities that are with us post 1994 and will still be with us for many, many years to come. Covid-19 has in fact helped us on reflecting on these realities, especially those who lived their daily lives in naivety.

There are schools that have pit latrines in this day and age. It is unfair to expect students in such poorly resourced schools to contend with hygiene protocols when they do not have access to basic hygiene facilities.

A lot of our schools, both in townships and in rural areas, do not have consistent access to clean water - that's if they have access to water at all - yet we expect these very children to wash their hands regularly in the era of Covid-19. All the more reason why the reopening of schools should be discouraged.

I am in agreement with Professor Jonathan Jansen who made the call that the 2020 school calendar should be scrapped. In fact I want to go as far as saying an education indaba should be had to map out strategies for 2021 that do not compromise the learning of children or put their lives at risk at the altar of "saving the year".

Covid-19 calls on us to be imaginative, creative and to think out of the box. It is during tragedies such as this where some of the greatest solutions can be found. An indaba with various experts who will ensure we consider the physical, psychological and academic well-being of children.

There is already an existing lack of psychosocial support in our schools. This pandemic has created fear and anxiety in many of us as parents, teachers and the school children themselves. I am not comfortable with the idea that my grandchildren may have to go to school, continue learning, while having to contend with the exposure to this virus.

My discomfort is worsened by knowing there is no one to counsel them as they go through the anxiety that comes with being away from home. Children are not immune to the anxieties associated with this pandemic, their lives have also been turned upside down, and as it stands, our schools are not equipped to have on-call therapists or counsellors who will aid our children as they manoeuvre life at school during a pandemic.

Very few of us spare a thought for teachers who work under difficult conditions and have to contend with possibly getting infected. Many times, teachers find themselves having to play the role of social workers and psychologists - which is already unfair.

My daughter is an educator and she is very anxious at the thought of schools reopening. She is fearful that should schools open, she may go home infected because as much as she can control her behaviour, she cannot control the behaviour of her pupils when they go home.

Once again, the years of neglect, corruption, maladministration and the "crisis of dysfunction" as Jansen puts it, have come back to bite us in the harshest way.

If our schools were taken care of and monitored when coming to the upkeep of infrastructure, ensuring that classes are not overcrowded, ensuring that children have access to running water and ablution infrastructure, may be then "saving the year" would be a rational solution.

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