Some learners are calling on government to take this moment to fix infrastructure at schools rather than reopening them.
Lobby group Equal Education hosted an online Children’s Conference to try and bring together learners and education officials from different provinces in a bid to address some of the challenges they face as a result of COVID-19.
“We face a lot of problems at school. I can say take this time and fix all the schools rather than opening our schools and letting us go there knowing very well that we are going to catch the disease. It is true that our schools especially in Ivory Park and other places are not updated. Now, the government must take this time and upgrade our schools then we can open,” says Roy Johane, a learner from Ivory Park in Johannesburg.
In the video below, concerns rise as more grades return to school:
Some learners from disadvantaged communities say they are struggling to cope.
“I have been at home struggling with this home schooling because issues such as data and network connectivity have been a major problem. I haven’t been hearing a lot from my educators. Sometimes I don’t have data to go onto these WhatsApp groups. In my school, we already have a case of one learner who has contracted the virus.”
The learners say they have created a charter. They say while it will not erect brick structures where mud schools now stand nor fix broken windows; establish libraries in schools or do away with the deep inequalities in South Africa’s education system – they believe it will educate communities about their rights and responsibilities.
In the video below, the health of learners and teachers should come first:
The organisers of the conference say the virtual conference was aimed at allowing learners to express themselves since they feel excluded in decision making processes on schooling.
“They created this platform because they felt unheard especially during this period of time. They felt like there’s really no one who really cared about what they have experienced especially now learning during COVID-19. They highlighted issues around expectations to learn from home and how difficult it has been for them to try and learn from home. With the issues of connectivity, data, the right devices to connect and all that,” says Equal Education’s Deputy General Secretary Tracey Malawana.
In the video below, Equal Education assesses schools:
Schooling for grade 7 and 12 learners in South Africa resumed on June 8 amid the nationwide lockdown. Grades 3, 6, 10, and 11 are expected to resume classes on Monday.
According to a survey conducted by unions in the education sector, some schools are not ready to welcome more learners, with 25 % of schools across South Africa having reported not having enough water for COVID-19 related sanitising. In the Eastern Cape, 70% of the schools that need water tanks have not yet received them.
The Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) has reiterated its call for teachers not to return to work until it is safe to do so.