‘Preventing private schools from opening is not going to disrupt inequality’

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Education expert Prof. Mary Metcalfe says preventing private schools from opening is not going to in any meaningful way disrupt inequality as pupils can still learn from home.

Her comments come as Congress of South African Students (Cosas) threatens to shut down private schools that re-open before February 15.

The Basic Education Department has given private or independent schools the green light to open from Monday and public schools are only allowed to open on February 15.

The start of the academic year has been delayed by two weeks due to the high infection rate of the coronavirus in the country.

Metcalfe says Cosas is correct about the inequalities that exist in our society.

She says, “Where I’m at sympathy with Cosas is that we have a society with huge inequalities and in order for us as a country to move together in a way that all people benefit from our democracy, we have to constantly combat these inequalities, through mechanisms we take economically and educationally to direct resources to where they are most needed.”

“Trying to stop private schools from opening is not going to in any meaningful way disrupt that inequality because private school children will still be learning at home. So Cosas is correct, inequality is a problem in our society but we need to rigorously address how we can reduce inequalities and direct resources to those in most need so that they benefit from our democracy.”

Metcalfe says only the Minister of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs can prevent a private school from opening.

In the audio below, she says private schools are not governed by the department in terms of their term times:

Unequal resources

Metcalfe says different types of schools learning and providing education to children who come from families or communities of vastly unequal resources at home will experience the lockdown differently.

She says children with access to resources can learn at home whether schools are open or closed.

INFOGRAPHIC: Different types of schools in SA:



Structural inequalities

Metcalfe says structural inequalities are resistant to change because privilege and advantage have multiple ways in which it reproduces itself.