Parents of Grade 7 and 12 learners whose children have returned to school are already feeling anxious about their children contracting COVID-19.
Some independent schools are even getting parents to sign indemnity forms, absolving the school from any liability in case a learner is infected with the coronavirus whilst under their care.
A Johannesburg based mother (who prefers anonymity) was happy when she dropped off her son at school to see learners being sanitised and screened as they entered the school yard.
Her son, who is a Grade 12 learner, has an underlying condition and such people are considered to be at a much higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
Her joy soon turned to fear after her son told her later while they were at home that the school was not fully observing set protocols and that they were made to stand in a group of more than 50 without adhering to social distancing.
The mother says she is very worried.
“With the numbers going up every day and we are getting into winter, my son is so stressed even while he was doing online classes at home. It is difficult for him to study at home. My son has sanitisers, masks and the school provided him with two masks; for me that’s fine. The only problem I have is this social distancing and it that cannot be adhered to on day one, what about when the other grades are phased in.”
In the video below, Educators’ Union Spokesperson of South Africa Kabelo Mahlobogwane says schools should not open until it is safe to do so:
Other parents feeling apprehensive
The Joburg based mother is not the only one feeling anxious at this point.
Thabo Molelekoa’s two children attend a private school in Johannesburg.
Molelekoa’s son is in Grade 7 and already skipped the first day of school on Tuesday.
His son’s school wants him to sign an indemnity form, protecting the school from any liability whatsoever including death or illness suffered by his son as a result of COVID-19.
“The important thing for me now is to ensure that the school is accountable for that and over and above, is it legal. Can they indemnify themselves against such a thing? I do understand that once a child enters the school premises the school takes full responsibility of the child’s well-being including education. So if they now want to cut ties and say the parent you are on your own, you bring your child to school at your own risk then what is that?”
Executive Director of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa Lebogang Montjane says parents can decide whether or not to sign the indemnity form, but they need to take legal advice as to what their rights are if they do not want to sign.
Gauteng Education Spokesperson Steve Mabona says it is advisable for learners with underlying conditions not to be at school and for the school to give the learner the necessary support.
All Grades 7 and 12s are expected back in schools next Monday.
In the video below, educators and parents are divided over the reopening of schools: