According to a new study to be published by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), over 60% of adult respondents to their survey on the reopening of schools believe that they should remain closed.
Government, the research team hope, will be informed to make a decision against the reopening of schools based on the data they have collected, which was released prior to the studies official publication in an effort to do just that.
The report asked respondents the question ‘schools have begun to reopen; which one of the following statements comes closest to your view’, to which Only 13% agreed that ‘schools should reopen for all grades’, 21% said that ‘schools should reopen for Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners only, and the remainder answered that they didn’t know.
60% of respondents said that they don’t think that schools should reopen at all this year, with only 14% backing the government’s position.
Writing for the Daily Maverick, Professor Kate Alexander, South African Research Chair (SHARChi) in Social Change at UJ said that the fact that such an overwhelming majority of the 2 569 respondent had voted against reopening schools should sway government to act accordingly.
“The government is losing support [from South Africans during the nationwide lockdown], which it can’t afford in the current health crisis. People are very worried about the situation.”
She said that Parents from poorer backgrounds were especially worried about sending their kids back to school, reporting that 87% of adults with monthly incomes of less than R20,000 were ‘very concerned’.
“Only 52% of those earning more than R20,000 gave the same response,” she said. Clearly, parents value possible loss of lives over their children’s education, with this being especially pronounced among poorer parents.”
“These figures probably reflect the reality that poorer people are more likely to live in so-called COVID-19 hotspots, where their material circumstances place them at greater risk.”
“Wealthier parents can take solace from the fact that their children attend better resourced schools, and a high proportion can benefit from online teaching.”
She added that political affiliations had been broken down as one may expect.
“DA supporters are more likely to agree with the reopening of schools for all grades, followed by the ANC and then the EFF,” she said. “This may reflect income differences among the parties’ potential voters.”
“Nevertheless a majority from all three parties was opposed to schools reopening.”
Basic Education Minster Angie Motshekga has referred the decision on whether to further open up schools for more grades or shut them down entirely to cabinet, who are currently deliberating it.
Motshekga met with stakeholders every day last week in an effort to bring all the various education bodies and unions onto the same page, but seems to have dropped the ball with some among those who attended those meetings saying that she was “unprepared”.
“What shocked us is that the task team who were introduced on the call ended up asking for the consolidated proposals that we gave the minister on Saturday,” Ben Machipi, the general secretary of the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU) told TimesLIVE.
He said that she didn’t have all the resources that had been painstakingly submitted to her handy.
“The minister gave them an instruction to come and ask for something she has in her hands. The meeting was a waste of time.”