Picture a middle-class teenager in a suburban classroom: desk a metre or two from her classmates, everyone in the room wearing masks and regularly sanitising. Now picture a rural learner: up to thirty children crammed into a small classroom, with little or no running water for handwashing. These are the scenarios faced by government as it wrestles with how to reopen schools safely during the Covid-19 second surge.
On Friday, the department of education delayed the reopening of schools until 15 February – more than a month after they were due to open for the school year.
Safety protocols are not in place in many schools, according to a new survey, City Press reports. Yet some scientists believe delaying the opening of schools is unwise.
The SA Paediatric Association says that despite the new variant of the disease, children are still less affected by it than adults, Daily Maverick reports. The SA Human Rights Commission also reportedly raised concerns about the school nutrition programme – which feeds millions of children – being disrupted.
Private schools can reopen and many have, raising concerns about how school closures might put less-wealthy children at a disadvantage. It’s a complex debate and there are no easy answers, and we hope the department prioritises making our poorer schools Covid-19 safe, soon.
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