Many parents have been worried about their children returning to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, several protests by teachers have also taken place to insist schools be closed. While the national Department of Education has declared children must return to school, a position supported by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), there has still been much hesitation on part of parents to let their children go back.
While this decision has polarised teachers and parents across the country, a deputy principal at a local school has voiced her opinion that schools should be resuming teaching during the pandemic.
“I see a couple of people on my timeline support the call for schools in SA to be closed, so I thought it might be time to share my experiences. As most of you know, I am one of the deputy principals at a very large primary school – over 1000 kids,” said Jolene Ostendorf via a statement on Facebook.
“We are also one of the fortunate ones that have been able to welcome all our kiddies from Grade R to 7 back, full time for the past few weeks. In a nutshell, if the media is to be believed I should be walking into a cesspool of COVID infection every single day. As of today, our positive cases numbers two. That’s 0,2% of our total school population. We are not doing anything special like disinfectant tunnels etc. so are we just lucky? I doubt it – what we are seeing is that kids are better at this than adults. We’ve told the kids to wear their masks and wash their hands. And guess what? They do it! They are not interested in a big political statement or complaining about feeling stifled, etc.”
According to the deputy principal, she has sent more children home as a result of exposure from weekend activities than exposure at school.
“My new hobby is looking at the Facebook profiles of the parents who question and criticize schools relentlessly about safety in schools. Almost every single one has pictures of the parent posing mask-less with their friends during a time we’ve been told to stay at home. I’ve sent far more kids home due to exposure from weekend activities than any possible exposure at school.
“You want to close the schools? Understand that schools are this country’s lynchpin industry,” continues. “Our economy relies on parents having a safe place for their kids to go while they are at work. For hundreds of thousands of children, school is also where they get a regular meal. It’s where they are safe from abuse. If you think that doesn’t apply to your community, you’re wrong. Wealthier communities are just better at hiding the abuse that exists. Teach online! How are households supposed to manage online learning for multiple children while still working – with limited devices?”
“Finally, if you still think schools should close, you should know that about 200 000 teachers in SA are school-paid. This doesn’t include admin staff and support staff. Close schools, and tens of thousands of school employees will be without jobs. And we won’t be losing the lazy teachers we don’t want in classrooms anyway – we’ll be losing thousands of young, enthusiastic teachers who are currently working their butts off to make sure your child catches up.”
Ostendorf believes that keeping schools closed now will carry “repercussions for generations to come”.
“Starting with increased class sizes, no more school sport, no more drama or music, no more excursions … the list is endless. The ‘boring’ education we’re being forced into at the moment? That will be the norm. Think before you say ‘close schools’.”
Many parents agreed with Ostendorf’s sentiments.
“I agree wholeheartedly,” one parent commented.
“I agree. Please keep schools open. Children need the interaction with friends even under the new kind of normal. Also way to many good teachers will be losing jobs if schools close again,” another wrote.