Covid-19: South African Children Return To School

The most industrialized nation in Africa is slowly loosening Covid-19 restrictions as schools opened their doors to students on Monday.

With well over 50 000 cases of Covid-19 and close to 1,000 deaths, South African authority faced resistance from teacher’s unions and parents from opening schools who questioned the safety of educators and pupils.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday that the majority of South Africa’s primary and secondary schools were now able to host classes.

‘The golden rule is there will be no school that will resume if not ready to do so,’ Motshekga said.

The government will find alternative arrangements for pupils at schools unable to open on Monday, she said.

Initially, only pupils in grades 7 and 12 will return to class, with other years phased in gradually.

Many of South Africa’s government schools are in poor shape, particularly in rural areas, and analysts say that a quarter of them have no running water, making hand-washing nearly impossible.

Others have been vandalised or hit by arson attacks during a nationwide lockdown imposed by the government in March.

Government officials, however, worry further delaying a return to classrooms would mean a generation of school children risks losing a key part of their education, and the future opportunities it brings.

The shutdown has exposed deep divisions – between black and white, rich and poor – that persist in South Africa’s education system a quarter century after the end of minority white rule.

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