What South Africa can learn about the reopening of schools around the world

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Here’s how countries around the world have approached the issue of getting back to school.

The subject of reopening of schools after the coronavirus school closures to slow the curb of the disease is a hot topic with some being for reopening while others being against it.  The department of education has announced a phased-in approach for the reopening of schools in SA with matriculants and grade 12 going back first on June 1.

Also Read: 5 key things parents need to remember for back-to-school plans

This is what SA can learn from the reopening of schools from countries around the world:

France

France schools have been closed since March 17 and opened last week with the restrictions that there could only be 15 students per class.

Last week this country opened up schools just as South Africa was announced the finalized date for our school reopenings. Learners in that country went back to school and the country, unfortunately, saw an increase in their coronavirus cases. The 70 new Covid-19 cases were directly linked to the reopening of schools.

Also Read: Parents, educators have mixed reactions about schools reopening

China (Wuhan)

Social distancing with desks spread out,  students wearing face masks and staggered school start times. Class sizes are smaller and students have temperature checks at the entry of schools. On May 6  about 57,000 students in Wuhan, returned to school after their 76-day lockdown was lifted.

Italy

The country’s schools have been closed since March 5 and have said their schools will only reopen in September. In an interview with Reuters Italy’s education minister  Lucia Azzolina is quoted as saying to that country’s parliament that current conditions would not allow lessons to restart safely any earlier.

United Kingdom

Over in the UK, the government has announced a June 1 reopening of schools through a phased-in approach. The country’s prime minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that the reopening schools were a crucial part of the next phase of the government’s response to the pandemic because “The education of our children is crucial for their welfare, their health, their long-term future and for social justice”. The announcement of the reopening has faced criticism from teaching unions who are concerned about access to protective equipment for staff.

South Korea

Schools in this country reopened for the first time since December 2019 but were forced to close 66 schools after the discovery of new coronavirus cases in two students in Incheon, Seoul. Some of the precautions that have been put in place in the country include emergency service systems that operate for 24 hours a day and thermal imaging cameras set up outside school entrance, social distancing, and smaller class sizes. Teachers are also expected to take the temperature of students before they can enter classes.  One high school teacher, Jeong Hyun-jin told Asia Times that schools would need more staff. “Teachers cannot do both educational activities and quarantining and they must ensure that they can focus on their educational activities,” Jeong said.

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