One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has received over 100 000 signatures on his petition to reverse the decision by the Department of Education to reopen schools from 1 June.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of children returning to school fro the first time since before the Easter break in march due to the rising number of COVID-19 infections in South Africa, and Maimane thinks they should remain shut for the next three months.
‘SCHOOLS COULD BECOME PETRI DISHES’
Maimane said that the reopening of schools is a “rushed and ill-advised” decision that could place teachers, pupils and parents in jeopardy.
“In light of the increasing rise in cases of COVID-19 infections, the decision by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, to reopen all schools on 1 June 2020 is a risky and dangerous gamble with the lives of our nation’s young people,” Maimane wrote.
“As a father and an uncle, I fundamentally disagree with this rushed and ill-advised decision. Therefore I’m calling on all South Africans – including teachers, parents, principals and SGBs – to make their voices heard on this matter of national importance and join us in our call for the Minister to reverse this unwise decision.”
He said that by bringing pupils, teachers back into the school environment while the peak of infections was still on the horizon, the department is risking an undoing of the efforts produced during the lockdown period to stem the spread of the virus.
“We maintain that opening schools at this stage poses a risk and danger to all students, teachers and support staff as all credible indicators suggest that infections have not yet peaked.”
“We cannot risk allowing our country’s places of learning to become petri dishes for increases in infections which may undo the value of the national lockdown.”
‘KEEP SCHOOLS SHUT’
Instead, Maimane is advocating for schools to remain closed for the next three months while healthcare systems continue to manage the daily increases in cases.
“Our proposal for schools to remain closed for a further three-month period is the most sensible choice. This will allow every school sufficient time to implement a “Roadmap to Reopening” – a checklist of prerequisites that must be satisfied before any school is declared safe to reopen.”
He criticised Motshekga for seemingly neglecting to consider the rights of children during this uncertain period.
“Section 28(2) of our Constitution states that “a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child”. The Minister gave very little reassurance that her decision adheres to this fundamental right,” he said.
With severe pressure on thousands of underfunded schools to ensure that their premises are sanitised and ready for the return of pupils and staff, Maimane questioned whether they would cope.
“Based on the Minister’s address and the data at hand, it seems highly unlikely all 24 000 schools across South Africa, many without basic infrastructure and water supply, will be COVID-proof within the coming days.”
At time of writing, the petition had 112 771 signatures in total.
BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN