EDITORIAL | Schools should be closed in the hardest-hit Covid-19 areas
The education department should have been better prepared for the next wave. After all, it knew it was coming
To keep schools open or not to keep schools open: that is the question. Not even Shakespeare, who penned the famous “to be, or not to be”, would have had a simple answer. Basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Saturday announced SA would go with the former option. Is it the right decision to do so during the worst Covid-19 wave to hit our shores? It is a complex matter with many factors to consider before coming to a conclusion.
There are two main reasons Motshekga seems to believe it is the right move. Out of more than 25,500 schools, only about 100 have experienced a worrying number of infections. “Let’s handle the matter case by case,” she said. In light of the loss of education children have suffered since March 2020, “people shouldn’t expect us to shut down the system”. Many pupils are busy with midyear assessments and it would be disruptive to halt that. The second point revolves around teacher vaccinations starting this week, offering some hope of protection for our educators. Motshekga said more than 580,000 staff at public and private schools would be vaccinated between Wednesday and July 8.
Yet the gravity of our Covid-19 situation is undeniable. If children continue go to school every day, they place not only themselves, but their parents, grandparents and caretakers at risk. It is near impossible for an adult living with a school-going child to self-isolate. Our government’s stop-start vaccination programme isn’t helping. SA is inching closer to 60,000 Covid-19 deaths. Hospital beds in the worst-hit provinces are scarce. While Gauteng is driving SA’s third wave, its vaccination rate is slower than the national average. ..