3 May 2020
- Straight & Two Beers
Department did not think things through on the reopening of schools
If you ever had doubts about the love parents have for their bundles of joy, look no further than the rumour that schools are about to reopen next week.
It seems like some mandarin in the Department of Basic Education was working from home and fooling around with scenarios of having pupils return to school in batches.
However, the bureaucrat did not contend with the wrath of parents whose love for the fruit of their loins surpasses everything on earth.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced schools would be on extended break after Covid-19 hit our shores, there were less than 59 infections in the country. With infections now in four figures, it defies logic and boggles science to have kids returning to school.
We were told to wash our hands, wear face masks and keep our social distance, and it has been hard for adults to follow through this advice to the letter. Now, how does the government expect the little rapscallions to abide by the rules on school grounds?
The chances of little Thando coming back from school with the same cloth mask he left home with are proportional to Alexandrians obeying the lockdown.
While Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga tip-toed around whether the academic year was lost or not, parents, teacher trade unions and even Cosas (the Congress of South African Students) made it clear that reopening schools at a time when infections were on the rise was unacceptable.
For one thing, churches and other big events remain closed. Schools offer Covid-19 fertile ground to grow.
Scientists deem children strong enough to survive infections. They get the mild version of the contagion.
However, the children are also carriers and may bring the disease home to infect their gogos and mkhulus – and the coronavirus particularly hits the elderly the hardest.
My own children were ecstatic on hearing that schools were about to reopen. The five-week hiatus behind closed doors has taken its toll and they miss their friends and the freedom to run amok.
I took the trouble to explain to them that we were not out of the woods yet where coronavirus was concerned.
The older one assured me that with masks, sanitisers and gloves, classes could resume with safety.
However, she conceded that seeing her crew after all this time would be overwhelming and it would be hugs all round.
Then there is the matter of transport. To get to school, thousands of pupils have to be transported and the virus is known to thrive under those conditions.
There is no doubt that the virus will be with us for months to come or even until next year when a vaccine is said to be found and, until then, we can only rely on good old soap and social distance to keep it at bay.
The government has already allowed the mines to start operations with reduced labour.
The mines rely on lots of people in confined underground tunnels to dig for ore. It remains to be seen how the coronavirus will be contained under those conditions. I would urge the same mandarin who dreamt up schools reopening to design a better option than expose kids to danger.