So the department of education announced that they have made the decision that South African schools must reopen with Grades 7 and 12 set to go back first on June 1 as part of a phased-in approach to reopening of schools. As soon as the department announced this decision many parents rightly responded with mixed reactions with many questioning whether it’s the right thing to do.
As a parent to a Grade 3 nine-year-old, I’ve decided that I’m sending her to school when her grade is scheduled to go back. Having watched her sense of longing for her teacher, her school friends and her old routine I can say that I would like her to get some sense of normalcy back – even though it will certainly not be as she remembers- and I’ve made her fully aware of that. I also want her to return because even though there’s nothing wrong with homeschooling and it gets the job of learning done- I do believe that attending school with other kids helps her exercise and grow her social skills – which I believe are just as important as the content that she learns in a classroom.
Before going further though I should declare at this point that my child does attend a private school that has proposed a remixed version of back to school where each grade would possibly attend physically once a week. The school- unlike thousands in SA- would be able to provide the hygiene resources required to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
I am fully aware that I am lucky enough to be able to say I will send my child back to a school with water, sanitizers, and her own socially distant desk. At the same time, I’m shattered that as a taxpayer – who upon seeing the state of public schools decided to send my child to a private school – I have also been complicit in a creating a situation where after 27 years of democracy in SA we have to start from scratch at providing the water and other resources that government schools have been lacking for years before we can even get to the part of debating whether going back to school is the right action to take from a scientific point of view. Worse yet we have to get that water to those schools when have we’ve been unable to provide it for over two decades. We have to get it there – in a week – while in the face of a global pandemic.
I believe WE along with those in leadership are also to blame because we have been watching this broken situation for years, recognizing full well that it’s broken, for years. Shame on us for having let a situation persist where there are up to 100 schoolchildren in one class. 100 school children! A situation where Michael Komape was forced to use a pit latrine toilet which killed him. Today we are all paying for not having used our voices to say enough- not with our children, not with the future of this country.
Nelson Mandela must be turning in his grave. Charlotte Maxeke must be turning in her grave. Winnie Mandela must be turning in her grave. Walter Sisulu must be turning in his grave. Albertina Sisulu must be turning in her grave.
Cry the beloved country!