The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) says it will begin with a national shutdown of all private schools on Monday morning.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a four-week long break for learners in public schools across the country, but private schools have been allowed to remain open.

Matrics in public schools will return to classes in a week’s time and Grade sevens a week later.

The decision to close public schools followed mounting pressure on Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, due to the continuing surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the country.

In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa announces the closure of public schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic: 

COSAS, however, argues that all schools must be closed.

“We have been fighting for equal education; we have been fighting for equal opportunities, but yet the government decides to continuously put inequality within our education system. Yes, we understand that private schools are independent schools and the salaries of teachers and the salaries of the teachers come from the school fees of the learners, but when we talk about equal education, we need to speak from one voice and that means we need to speak from one point. So as COSAS, what we are saying is that we are going to try and gain access to schools and we are going to shut down private schools. We cannot allow segregation to be practiced during this pandemic,” says COSAS’ Beauty Blennies.

‘Decision to close schools unjustifiable’

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Friday dismissed the government’s decision to keep schools closed for all grades, except Grades 7 and 12, until 24 August 2020 as regrettable and unjustifiable.

“The decision means that by 24 August 2020, over 10 million South African children, depending on the grade they are in, will have lost over 50% or 100 scheduled school days as a result of COVID-19 school closures,” the Commission said in a statement.

However, Equal Education said it cautiously supports the decision to temporarily close public schools, as the Department of Basic Education and the provincial education departments work to address legitimate and serious concerns raised by teachers and learners about some schools being unsafe and inadequately supported to reopen.

The group said it, however, remains concerned by Basic Education’s failure to implement a risk-adjusted strategy.

“It is baffling that the DBE has failed to implement a risk-adjusted strategy that is responsive to conditions in schools and communities to help inform the reopening and closing of schools. Furthermore, the DBE’s Standard Operating Procedures have not provided sufficient guidance on the complexities of managing the COVID-19 pandemic in schools.”

In the video below, Equal Education reacts to the closing of public schools.