Pupils could be returning to school as soon as May 6 if the current lockdown period is not extended. Many argue that this decision could cause havoc in South Africa amid the coronavirus outbreak.

TimesLIVE reports that a government draft proposal suggests that if the lockdown isn’t extended, grades seven and 12 will be among the first learners to return to school on May 6. Following this date, more grades will slowly be phased in until all are back up and running.

Education Expert Professor Jonathan Jansen has suggested that the academic year be called off altogether. While this idea has received some criticism, others are saying it is the logical thing to do.

Institute of Race Relations CEO, Dr Frans Cronje says he couldn’t agree with Jansen more.

“Schools daily concentrate 13-million children in close proximity to one another. Those pupils then travel, collectively, many millions of kilometres a day between their homes and their schools. Our school system thereby represents a breeding ground and distribution network for South Africa‚Äôs COVID-19 pandemic, and reopening schools will undermine every other action the government has taken to stall the pandemic,” says Cronje.

According to Cronje, the risk of re-opening schools is especially dangerous due to the number of older people who often act as caregivers for children in South African homes.

“If children take the virus back into such households, COVID-19 risks exacerbating the terrible damage done to family structures in South Africa during the AIDS pandemic of 15 years ago,” he adds.

Cronje says the decision to open schools once more could even lead to another period of lockdown that is harder and more prolonged than the first.

“The government will be forced into new and prolonged hard lockdowns on businesses which many such enterprises will not survive, leading in turn to millions of people losing their livelihoods,” says Cronje.

If activities that bring large crowds of people together for extended periods of time do not remain restricted, the lives of children and elderly members of our society will be on the line.

He suggests that schools should stay closed throughout the winter months.

“Opening schools before at least the coming of our summer would be a reckless action and one we hope the government will have the good sense to avoid,” ends Cronje.

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