Let all pupils except matrics stay home


When the reopening of schools was first mooted, this newspaper was among those who warned the authorities that the deficits in many of the province’s schools were so great that it was highly unlikely that they would be able to get up to speed with the infrastructure and equipment required to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Sadly, events have borne out this pessimistic prediction. A report drawn up after MPLs conducted oversight visits last month to 50 Eastern Cape schools is damning. It indicates that many schools have failed to meet the required health and safety standards since they reopened a month ago and that they are unable safely to accommodate incoming grades.

The MPLs found pupils sharing textbooks, deficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and that schools lacked the classrooms and furniture to accommodate more grades. They said the department had “no clear substitution plan” for teachers with comorbidities and no clear plan to support pupils with comorbidities and those who contracted Covid-19.

It is not just a disgrace that schools have been dismally let down like this by the education authorities, provincial and national. It amounts to a betrayal of the public's trust.

The  MPLs highlighted the urgent need for teachers and pupils to get psychosocial support because, understandably, they were anxious about working and learning in Covid-19 hotspots.

It is not just a disgrace that schools have been dismally let down like this by the education authorities

As we reported yesterday, so great is the anxiety felt by some young pupils that they feign symptoms in order to get tested for the coronavirus. Others expressed overwhelming fear of dying from the virus. While the danger posed by Covid-19 to children is in fact low, the psychological impact of feeling terrified to be at school is not only unconducive to learning but is likely to scar many youngsters.

If democracy means anything, then why are our terrified children and their desperate parents and teachers not being listened to?

The national department of  basic education has now opted to drastically reduce the number of pupils who will return to school next week. But still, so bad is the situation at schools in our province that we concur with education superintendent-general Themba Kojana that all children except those in matric should stay away from the classroom for a good while longer.

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