Mixed reactions from parents on reopening of schools amid new variant

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Parents express mixed views about the reopening of public schools as government schools across the country open for learning on Monday morning.

The re-opening of public schools was postponed by two weeks in the wake of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gave clarity on how the return to normal schooling is going to go.

Learners at public schools have not been to school since December last year. Schools were due to open on January 27, 2021, but the holidays were extended by another two weeks.

Some parents say the reopening of school is actually a good thing for a lot of children who have been away. Because they have been missing out on education and missing out on their future. Parents actually do not know when this COVID-19 is going to end, so they believe the only sensible thing is for their children to go back to school.

However, other parents do not agree. They feel scared and since they are still working from home and they are conflicted about allowing their children to go back to school.

Parents have also cited concerns raised by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who recently warned of a third wave and the fact that South Africa is currently facing a new variant of the virus, which is said to be aggressive.

They say the government should ensure that schools meet all the necessary requirements.

They want their children protected with sufficient PPE as well as teachers who are in the education system.

Teachers say although COVID-19 is bound to be with us for long, they welcome the reopening of schools and say this would be of great benefit to learners in rural areas for whom school closure is exactly that, a great benefit.

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The first term starts on Monday and will end on April 23. The second term will commence on May 3 and end on July 9.

Motshekga says the health and safety of teachers and learners remains a top priority.

“We’ve also amended our school calendar for 2021 as published by the department confirming that tomorrow the 15th of February will be the first day for public schooling in 2021 and from the outset we want to emphasise that the health and the safety of our teachers, of our learners and our staff remains our top priority,” she says.

Motshekga says it has been three weeks since the department started phasing-in the reopening of schools.

School management teams returned on January 25; and teachers have been back at work for two weeks now, since 1 February.

Motshekga says her department will continue to maintain a balance this academic year between health, safety and dealing with curriculum gaps in schools, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She says the impact of the coronavirus continues to be felt in the Basic Education sector. More than 1 100 educators have passed away from COVID 19 – with over 150 teachers being lost this year alone.

Education stakeholders express concerns about the opening of public schools