Commission Believes Schools Could Have Opened As Planned

The Department of Basic Education's decision to delay the reopening of schools has received mixed reactions. The South African Human Rights Commission is on the side opposing the delay and believes that schools are not playing a major role in spreading Covid.

The Department of Basic Education's decision to delay the reopening of schools has received mixed reactions. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is on the side opposing the delay and believes that schools are not playing a major role in spreading Covid.  

SAHRC Commissioner, Andre Gaum, said:

It appears to us that government got it wrong in terms of this balancing of rights ... evidence does not suggest that schools are major spreaders of the virus and schools actually proved to be safe spaces when the health and safety protocols are adhered to.

Gaum did however want to make it clear that the SAHRC shares the concerns of government when it comes to the health and safety of teachers, learners and staff at schools. 

The Commissioner also acknowledged that these Covid-19 decisions are difficult decisions to make and that it is constantly a balancing of rights that need to take place here. 

He continued to say, "In this case, a right to basic education and the best interests of the child, that is paramount to our constitution".

SAHRC does not see the purpose behind having this two week delay due to the peak being predicted to come in many other provinces after 15 February, which is when government said schools can reopen.

Should a peak be seen, school closures will need to happen which could then lead to another disruptive school year. 

We believe that it would have been much better and much more sensible if government ensured that the health and safety protocols are in place in our schools. The teachers with comorbidities are protected in the sense that interim replacements are put in their places to replace and assist them in the meantime. 

SAHRC is also calling for teachers to be prioritised when it comes to vaccinations. 

Along with health and safety protocols coupled with the rotational timetable for attendance being in place, Gaum says this would have ensured the safety of teachers, learners and support stuff while the right to education is upheld.

The Commission has requested a meeting with the department but the announcement happened before the meeting could take place. They want to understand the direction government is taking and whether a further delay is being considered.

Last week, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Reginah Mhaule, announced that both public and private schools will now be reopening on 15 February instead of 27 January. This ruling goes for both public and private schools.

 

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