Letter: Risk of restarting classes - Businesslive

19 April 2020 - I write to voice my strong agreement with the essence of the proposal made by Prof Jonathan Jansen on exercising extreme caution before reopening SA’s schools, even if that means scrapping the remainder of this school year.

I write to voice my strong agreement with the essence of the proposal made by Prof Jonathan Jansen on exercising extreme caution before reopening SA’s schools, even if that means scrapping the remainder of this school year.

Schools daily concentrate 13-million children in proximity to one another. Those pupils then travel, collectively, many millions of kilometres a day between their homes and their schools. Our school system thereby represents a breeding ground and distribution network for the Covid-19 pandemic, and reopening schools will undermine every other action the government has taken to stall the pandemic.

The risk is particularly acute given the number of skip-generation and extended households in the country, where older people often act as caregivers to children. If children take the virus back into such households, Covid-19 risks worsening the terrible damage done to family structures in SA during the Aids pandemic of 15 years ago.

Education authorities should further consider that if reopening schools accelerates the spread of the virus the government will be forced into new and prolonged hard lockdowns on businesses, which many such enterprises will not survive, leading in turn to millions of people losing their livelihoods.

We are strong proponents of allowing small and medium enterprises that can operate safely within sensible social distancing protocols to begin doing so immediately. But any activity that crowds large numbers of people together for extended periods of time should remain restricted.

Opening schools before at least the coming of our summer would be a reckless action and one we hope the government will have the good sense to avoid.

Frans Cronje
Institute of Race Relations

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/letters/2020-04-19-letter-risk-of-restarting-classes/

 

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