To say that South Africa’s approach to re-opening schools has been less than ideal, would be an understatement. From pushing re-opening dates several times, to schools being ill-equipped to welcome back students, as well as several already recording cases of COVID-19, it’s clear that it has to be looked at once again.
In order to more effectively tackle this situation, President Cyril Ramaphosa says he will be meeting with the relevant stakeholders in the coming days, and aiming to reach a universally agreed upon decision.
Whether such a decision can indeed be reached remains to be seen, but the president says he is looking to engage with the necessary parties on the matter, including parents, educators, student organisations, unions and others.
“Once this had been done, we are going to assess what we have heard and discuss it with the medical advisory committee… in the light of what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. I think we will come to a positive and inclusive decision,” added the president during a recent virtual Imbizo on COVID-19.
The fact that Ramaphosa highlights the WHO could prove of importance, especially as the organisation has warned that re-opening schools is ill-advised at this time given the spike in COVID-19 cases across the globe. South Africa in particular has suffered a spike, with confirmed cases sitting at 311 049 at the time of writing.
During the aforementioned Imbizo, the president was asked whether the cost of life versus sacrificing the academic year is being brought into consideration.
“We don’t focus on how many people should die first before we take a particular action. We are about saving lives and we are also about preserving livelihoods. Our strategy is not based on the number of lives of people who must die,” he answered.
“We are going to sit back and listen carefully to all the key role-players about the re-opening of schools. Losing an academic year cannot be weighed up against the lives of the people we must lose. If we have to get to a point of closing schools, that will be the decision,” he added.
As such it remains to be seen if South Africa will take the drastic steps that another African nation, Kenya, recently took in keeping its schools closed until the year’s end.[Image – Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash]