New research indicates that people living in low-income communities are more likely to be in favour of keeping school closed until the second Covid-19 wave passes.
The findings of the third round of the Covid-19 Democracy Survey, conducted by the Centre for Social Change at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), in partnership with the Development, Capable and Ethical State department of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), found that low-income households were more worried about schools reopening.
The survey found that 53% of adults thought schools should remain closed until the situation improved. About 19% believed schools should reopen for Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils only.
Some independent schools reopened on Wednesday morning.
The majority of them are due to open on 18 January. Public schools are expected to open on 27 January, but a final decision is expected soon.
The survey was conducted between 30 December and 6 January. There were 10 618 participants who completed the survey online, using social media adverts that direct them to questions.
The researchers found that views on whether schools should reopen differed by income, race and the type of accommodation respondents lived in.
People in lower income streams were more likely to oppose reopening schools than those in higher income streams.
Fifty-three percent of those who earn less than R1 000 a month were against schools reopening, compared to 41% of those who earn more than R20 000 a month.
Respondents who live in backyard shacks or rooms in townships, who were most strongly opposed to the reopening of schools, amounted to 56%, compared to only 44% in suburban houses.
“The new figures, and their breakdown by class, reflect inequalities in our society.
“Wealthier parents in suburbs can reasonably have greater confidence in the ability of their schools to provide a safe environment, compared to poorer parents in townships and informal settlements.
The findings show that the majority of adults oppose the reopening of schools while Covid-19 cases continue at current high levels.
This opposition is strongest among the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged sections of society, who are less likely to have confidence in their schools’ ability to provide a safe environment for pupils.
“These findings illustrate that although parents are deeply concerned about their children’s education, they are equally, if not more, concerned about the safety of their children, their families and communities,” said Professor Carin Runciman, UJ associate professor at the Centre for Social Change.
Respondents’ answers also differed according to race.
Indian adults were more strongly opposed to schools reopening – 77% said schools should not reopen until the situation improved.
Only 37% of white adults opposed the reopening of schools, compared to 52% of coloured and 52% of black respondents.