Debate on reopening of schools continues

Zeid Baker, principal, South Peninsula High School, Diep River

The debate about when schools should reopen is ongoing. There is so much uncertainty.

In my opinion, pupils should return to school when our scientists and epidemiologists deem it fit. No political views or emotional outbursts on social media should influence the return date. I am sure that our Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, will be advised and guided by the experts in science and epidemiology.

I am impressed with the views of South Africa’s very own and world renowned epidemiologists, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who serves on the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19.

Listening to the views of individuals with very little understanding of how the virus spreads or the “scare” fake news on social media unfortunately does not help the cause. The virus is going to be around for some time because a vaccine has not been found. That is a fact. Should our lives come to a standstill? I don’t think so.

Scientists are speculating that a vaccine could possibly only be discovered sometime in next year. Do we put our children’s education on hold? I don’t think so.

Until a vaccine is found, we have to ensure that we follow the protocols advised internationally by the World Health Organisation and move on with our lives. The Department of Basic Education and the Western Cape Education Department have a responsibility to ensure that the internationally accepted protocols for protection against the virus are implemented in our schools. All schools must be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) before we return. Our children and our teachers must be protected. Importantly though, we cannot deny our children their right to an education.

Lessons must be learnt from previous periods of turmoil in our country. Many of those of the generation of the 1970s and 1980s who sacrificed their education battled in later life. They received no support. Those, at the time, whose working-class parents reminded them that there was life beyond protest rallies and marches were able to put some academic structure to their life and achieved some success in later life. We must guard for this. Those who were politically connected were rewarded for their efforts. Unfortunately, many of them in government left the masses behind. The unfortunate scenes of poverty we are witnessing bare testimony to this. The values enshrined in our Constitution has largely been forgotten. Relief organisations such as Gift of the Givers, Mustadafin, the Red Cross, Nakhlistan and many others in the Western Cape and around the country fortunately have stepped in.

I salute the principals, teachers and community workers at the schools in our poor communities who have stepped forward and are providing our children with a daily meal. I believe that solutions must be found to ensure that our children are being educated. Teachers at many schools have gone the extra mile to assist their students during this period of lockdown. They have done this via WhatsApp and other platforms. This must be commended. Where there is a will there’s a way.

We cannot sacrifice the education of our children while the education at private schools and well-off public schools continue. Parents who find themselves in difficult situations have also committed themselves to not let their children’s education suffer. This is also commendable. Importantly, solutions must be found to keep the contact with our children.

Only factual information and the correct medical advice is important in the current situation. Calmness of thought and action is key to ensure the prosperity of everyone, especially our children during this time.

Let us live for our children. This is the motto I live by. It’s kept me on the straight path in my responsibility as a teacher.