The civil rights organisation AfriForum plans on directing an urgent letter to the National Command Council and the Department of Education to convince them to allow schools that can prove that they adhere to COVID-19 regulations to reopen for learners on 27 January 2021 as planned. This comes after the announcement by the Department that schools will only reopen on 15 February 2021.
According to Natasha Venter, Advisor for Educational Rights at AfriForum, it is in the interest of learners and parents that schools, where the necessary safety measures are in place, reopen as planned. “Learners suffered in 2020 because of the chaos brought on by the lockdown regulations, and we cannot afford that they get further behind. Many schools have already made the necessary arrangements to look after learners and staff’s health. It is therefore unfair for the Department of Education to disadvantage these schools because the Department failed to intervene in ensuring that schools who were unable to implement the necessary measures are sufficiently equipped.”
The further postponement of the reopening of schools for the 2021 academic year also creates uncertainty among learners, according to Venter. “Schools have to adjust to the new normal that the virus brought about. Government’s procrastination with supplying the vaccinations and its refusal to allow other role-players to participate, as well as the possibility of even more waves of infections mean that we will have to abide by safety regulations for a while longer – something that many school already do successfully. This does not mean that children’s education, social development and welfare should be neglected, however.”