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 The Anglican Board of Education, on behalf of  Anglican Church of Southern Africa, in a statement on Wednesday has welcomed Minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement about reopening South Africa in the country on 1 June…

The decision it has said, “reflects wide prior consultation and care to address the concerns of all parties”.

The minister’s mantra, “Schools are good for children” was bolstered by citations from UNICEF and emphasised the place of schools in providing not only educational building blocks but a framework for children’s daily life, mental health, physical security and socialisation, the church said.

“The tension between needing to bring South Africa’s children off the streets back into this environment, and the need to protect the health of children, families, educators and school employees constitutes our dilemma,” the church said.

“The minister’s statistic that 1,577 schools have been vandalised during the national lockdown points to both a malaise in our society, which needs to be understood and addressed, and practical security issues for school governing bodies (SGBs) and the department to address.

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The church has said that, notwithstanding the concerns and caution that dominate the discussion and debates on reopening schools, is was strongly in favour of “actively moving forward with readmitting children to schools as soon as possible”.

It said that children are safer at schools on various levels – including food security, physical safety and infection by Covid-19 and other diseases – than in the streets in which they play.

The church has stressed the need to ensure that children must very quickly be moved “into safe educationally supervised spaces”, adding that teachers were good at managing children and are best placed to teach them hygiene, physical distancing among others.

“Children are much safer in their care than wandering free while their parents are out at work,” the church said

“Children are much safer in their care than wandering free while their parents are out at work,” the church said, stressing the need to hasten inclusion of the “smallest children” sooner than the proposed date of August.

“Minister Motshekga’s pointed reference to the strike of 2010, following which many learners in poorer communities are known never to have returned to school, is a solemn warning and a call for justice in our current context.

“There must be a clear code of requirements for admitting more grades, but any school which declares itself ready and willing to proceed with readmitting more children … should be allowed and actively encouraged to do so, provided they demonstrate compliance with the code.

“Ideally, no school should go ahead without all being able to do likewise but the spectrum of schools in this country and the chaos caused by vandalism rules out the delays and consequent injustice which this would cause for the majority of children.

“It goes without saying that the minister’s assurances about water and toilets are welcome and she should be supported in her efforts to secure compliance from all provincial departments in this regard.

Education expert urges parents to work with schools to ensure safe return

While the church has praised the responses of teachers and their professional organisations and unions to the basic education department’s reopening of schools on 1 June, it has called on them not to paralyse the process.

“The educator body in this country are mostly public-spirited and professional people who have chosen their profession out of care for children and a desire to build our society.

It is good that pleas from educators and their unions for safety in the workplace have been heard in the department’s consultations and attended to, even if this has delayed reopening.

“However these concerns should not paralyse well-planned and executed strategies to care also for the country’s children, and to obviate gaps in the acquisition of essential building blocks of learning.”

Lastly, the church has stressed that all school feeding schemes should reopen and feed all children registered at schools, especially in the light of the acute food shortages in the country.

It said reopening schools would immediately remove 20% (approximately nine million children) from the hunger list in the country. “The best way to feed children is to feed them,” the board said.

Author: ANA Newswire