There has been much furore surrounding the reopening of South Africa’s schools. Teachers have protested the phased reopening of schools, as they believe it is not yet safe for pupils to return to their respective educational establishments. Now, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has announced it supports the reopening of South Africa’s schools.
In a statement, the Commission said it supports Unicef’s position that children should return to schools as soon as possible as “evidence points to harm being done to children by not being in school.”
The Commission considered studies that show that school pupils would have lost between 20% and 50% of the scheduled schooling by the end of July as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission also referred to studies that reflected that more students are going hungry as they cannot access a daily meal as they usually would through their school’s feeding scheme.
As a result of this, pupils who have underlying conditions such as pneumonia and HIV\AIDS run a higher risk of malnutrition.
“[There is an] increased risk of child abuse, mental health breakdowns with rising rates of depression and anxiety. Children are at high risk of being left home alone when their caregivers go to work,” writes the Commission.
It also believes that children who are poor are at a greater disadvantage than those who are not, as those at better developed schools have access to online learning. Poorer children also regress in reading and mathematical skills during an extended absence from school.
The Commission also conducted its own research to determine whether the country’s education system is prepared to accept pupils back.
“Because the survey was anonymous and voluntary, the results of the survey cannot be said to be representative of the schools in the country and cannot be used to make any claims about the readiness of schools to receive learners,” the Commission said. “Despite these limitations, the results of the survey provide useful information to the commission and provincial departments of education.”
Their survey was conducted at a total of 4 485 schools, and this makes up almost 20% of the national total of schools. Their survey showed that:
– over 90% of schools reported that all learners wear masks at schools and 95% of teachers at these schools also wore masks to school in all nine provinces
-The percentage of responding schools reporting running water ranged from 47% (Eastern Cape) to 99% (Western Cape). In three provinces over 90% of schools reported having running water (Gauteng, Northern Cape and Western Cape). The remaining provinces reported as follows: KZN (59%) Mpumalanga (78%); Limpopo (74%); Eastern Cape (47%); Free State (89%) and North West ( 89% ).
– In respect of sanitisers, in four provinces over 90% of schools reported having sufficient sanitisers (Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, Western Cape). The other five provinces reported as follows: Eastern Cape (81%), KZN (78%), Limpopo (89%), North West (69%) and Mpumalanga (69%).
– In all provinces, over 95% of responding schools reported having screening processes in place. In four provinces, over 90% of schools reported that staff involved in screening had been trained in the screening process (North West, Northern Cape, Free State, KZN).