The civil rights organisation AfriForum has just learnt that the 19 learners from Grey College in Bloemfontein who have been quarantined by the state since Tuesday will be released in the care of their parents and allowed to self-isolate for the remainder of the required 14 days. AfriForum regards this as a huge victory for the rights of the children and their parents, but also for everyone who is currently being exposed to incidents where the state abuses its power.
This follows after an urgent letter had been sent yesterday by Willie Spies, AfriForum’s legal representative, to Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), to demand that the children’s right to self-isolate should be respected and adhered to.
After a matriculant at the school who resides in the hostel had tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the 19 learners (who are also hostel residents like him) were moved by officials to be quarantined at a guesthouse near the school. Their parents were informed that the children would “be the property of the state” for the next 14 days and that the parents would not be allowed to visit them. In addition, where they had been housed in single rooms in the school’s hostel, three to four of them were then placed together in rooms in the guesthouse, which made it impossible to maintain social distances. They were therefore more at risk of being infected with the virus than before.
According to Carien Bloem, Manager of Education at AfriForum, the officials’ actions in this case violated the rights of the learners and their parents, especially as a court order of 3 June 2020 determines that self-isolation should be an option for people who test positive for the virus, or have had contact with someone who tested positive, if the people prefer to and have the ability to self-isolate.
“AfriForum is grateful that justice has prevailed and that the learners have now safely been returned to their parents’ care. We will immediately intervene in cases like this, because it is unacceptable for children to be misused for the furthering of political agendas,” Bloem says.