‘Government is damn close to being guilty of culpable homicide’

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‘Government is damn close to being guilty of culpable homicide’

There is increasing pressure by parents to stop contact learning until after the Covid-19 peak has passed

Journalist
Cape Flats mom Farieda Abrahams protests against her son's school reopening. Pupil absenteeism has been high since schools opened their doors again.
Deadly serious Cape Flats mom Farieda Abrahams protests against her son's school reopening. Pupil absenteeism has been high since schools opened their doors again.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Concerned parents are butting heads with schools that are asking them to deregister their children if they want to keep them out of the classroom to avoid Covid-19 infection.

The national education department recently provided an option for parents to apply for an exemption from school for children, even though they don’t have comorbidities, but some schools are continuing to ask for deregistration from the education system.

As SA grapples with rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, there is increasing pressure on government from parents, teacher unions, educationists and political parties to stop contact learning until the peak has passed.

Parents who spoke to Times Select said they had taken a hardline stance against sending their children to school, with some prepared to forego the school year to keep them safe.

Johannesburg mother Anushka Naidoo had to wage a battle with her Grade 11 daughter’s school to allow her to learn from home.

She took her fight to the education department, which advised her of different options, including homeschooling and lockdown learning.

I’d rather have a child alive than not. Education is important, but not to detriment of my child.
Samantha Albertus

“The school sent out  communication saying that once the grades were phased in based on the new dates they were going to stop all online support.

“Since June I have been dealing with the school quite robustly, simply because my husband is diabetic and hypertensive. My daughter suffers terribly from anxiety.

“The school was not prepared to budge, despite the discussions.”

Naidoo said schools were doing different things because they did not have updated guidelines from the department, resulting in confusion.

“It seems there has been a break in communication between the department and the school. The district director was adamant schools need to support parents.

“However, the principals were not provided with the latest guidelines. My daughter’s school initially said it was going to work on a full capacity and there would be no online support.

“As a parent I refused to allow this setback to put my child in a position where she would be compromised. I sent her back to school last week Monday and she has not been back since.”

Naidoo said she was relieved to learn on Monday that the school was going to support online learning.

Gauteng mother Ade Olasile, who has children in grades 3 and 5, has decided not to send them to school once their grades are phased in.

“I’m still struggling with my school, as it says it will not be giving any support to parents who don’t send their kids once those grades go back to school.

“All I’m told is that if I’m not planning to bring them back I must inform them so they can deregister my kids.

“Why is it that some schools are providing parents with worksheets and some schools are not?”

A Free State mother, who did want to be named, said her son’s school informed her that if she did not have a medical reason for keeping him at home, she had to deregister him or apply for homeschooling.

Parents are refusing to send their children back to school until SA's Covid-19 peak has passed.
little consolation Parents are refusing to send their children back to school until SA's Covid-19 peak has passed.
Image: Shonisani Tshikalange

She said she had no choice but to send the boy to school because her ex-husband refused to allow him to be homeschooled.

“So I am fighting two battles at once.”

A Pietermaritzburg mother, who also did want to be identified, said she was told by her children’s school that if she did not send them back to the institution they would be deregistered.

“They don’t supply work packs to work at home. I was also told that they cannot write tests or exams, and therefore they cannot pass the year.

“It’s really frustrating to deal with a school that doesn’t care,” she said.

Cape Town mother Thandile Makhabeni wants to keep her Grade 12 daughter at home and safe, but the teenager is stressed about completing matric.

“My concern about her returning to school during this time is her being exposed to many groups of people when she travels. She uses at least two taxis to and back to school, leaving the house very early in the morning in the cold and rain, which is really not a good idea concerning the infection.

“My feeling is that if more parents unite and do not send  their children to school, the department will be forced to do something.

“Some of us are willing to keep our children home, but it’s a challenge when your matric child is stressed because her classmates are attending school.

“It brings fear of failure and missing out on a journey to pursue their dreams.”

Samantha Albertus, a Cape Town mother, said she was concerned about sending her seven-year-old daughter back to school because she did not fully understand the reasons behind wearing a mask or social-distancing.

“I am a health-care professional and have seen first-hand the effects Covid-19 has had on family, friends, colleagues and patients.

“Every day I’m on the front line and I risk my life and the lives of my kids by being at work. I do not want her to go to school and run the risk of transmitting it or contracting it during winter.

“It’s our flu season and ‘creche syndrome’ is a real thing among kids.

“I haven’t applied for an exemption as my child does not have a comorbidity.

The government needs to stop using our children as guinea pigs, stop wasting money on fighting the pleas of parents, teachers and genuinely concerned members of the public in court, and allow parents to keep their children at home.
Johannesburg mother

“The school did not give me an option of applying without it. They have stated that she will be deregistered if she is absent for more than 10 days.

“I have accepted that and my husband and I are more than happy for her to repeat the year if needed. I’d rather have a child alive than not. Education is important, but not to detriment of my child.”

A Johannesburg mother said: “The government needs to stop using our children as guinea pigs, stop wasting money on fighting the pleas of parents, teachers and genuinely concerned members of the public in court, and allow parents to keep their children at home.

“South Africa has had an education crisis for years. Instead of using this pandemic as the perfect opportunity to start fixing the problems by finding better solutions that would live beyond Covid-19, the government would rather make things worse and, quite frankly, be pretty damn close to being guilty of culpable homicide.”

Tim Hlongwane, acting head of the SA Principals’ Association in Gauteng said: “With regard to parents who opt not to send their children back, even if they don’t have comorbidities, that’s allowed. But the parent should communicate with the school and an agreement be reached on the collection of work.

“However there is no expectation on the part of the school to teach a child who is at home.

“On the day of formal assessment the school will notify the parents in advance. It is the responsibility of the parents to bring their child to school to write.”

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