The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has come out in full support of South African schools staying open and more children returning to class. The commission supports UN agency Unicef’s findings that more harm will be done to children if they discontinue learning.

Many teachers’ unions have called for schools to be closed as the country expects a peak in coronavirus infections.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has today begun consultations with education stakeholders on the matter.

The SAHRC’s Commissioner Andre Gaum says studies have also shown that children are less likely to spread the virus as their viral load is often low.

“Obviously, there will be areas, specific districts, whatever the case may be, where there is a high prevalence of infection in certain schools, where you know one needs to consider closing schools. But as a general principle, we won’t support it, but at the same time, that we do concentrate on making sure that government does what it is supposed to do to make schools safe. Evidence and scientific evidence clearly shows that learners are less likely much less likely to contract the disease and to also carry it over to others.”

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) in Limpopo says it has disrupted learning at close to 50 schools.

Cosas leaders visited schools in several parts of the province with the intention of shutting them down.
The organisation says it supports calls to only re-open schools after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Cosas requested learners at Moruleng High School in Seshego to go home. They did the same at Mosehlong and Masedibu high schools, also in Seshego. The campaign to shut schools was also taken to Modimolle and Makweng.

Cosas says it is not satisfied with interventions by the Department of Education on measures to make schools safe from coronavirus.

Provincial Secretary, Skhalo Mahladisa, says their intention is not to forcefully remove learners.

“We said it before that it is either you are guilty for two things; you are guilty for allowing the Department of Education to take a posture that is a true reflection of killing young people, or we are guilty for putting a full stop in what they are doing. So, we choose to put a full stop in whatever they are doing. We are addressing learners. They know we are their leaders. They elected us. We are here to address them and tell them … we are not taking them out. They themselves are going to come out.”

Students have expressed mixed views about the disruption of lessons.

The learner organisation says it plans to disrupt learning in other parts of the province. It says teaching and learning should be placed on hold until the peak of the pandemic passes. Meanwhile, the department of education in the province says it will continue with its plan to phase in other grades, including learners with intellectual disabilities.

Learners in grades 3 and 10 are expected to return to school on Monday.