She understands that some parents have anxieties about sending their children to school in the midst of a pandemic, but their anxiety should not prevent other parents from sending their children to school, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has said.
Since Motshekga announced last week that learners in Grades 7 and 12 will return to school on 1 June, parents have expressed their concern about the wisdom of this move, given the spread of the coronavirus in the country. This was echoed in the questions MPs directed at Motshekga during the National Assembly's first virtual sitting, with a few members present in the chamber in Cape Town.
Motshekga, however, is confident that it is the correct decision to open schools in a phased approach to deal with social distancing.
She said their first priority was to ensure that "schools are not centres of infection".
"The protocols are saying no child will be allowed into the school premises if they don't have their masks on. There is no way they will say they have forgotten. They will have to return to the gate."
MPs were concerned about reports that schools had not received the required protective equipment.
Motshekga said they would ensure that schools had the required protective equipment, with provincial departments responsible for the procurement. Schools without it, would not be allowed to open.
She said she was, however, concerned about the Western Cape, where two teachers tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, and said she would meet with the province over the weekend.
As she and President Cyril Ramaphosa had said previously, Motshekga said no child would be forced to attend school.
"We are saying to parents who are anxious, they must keep their children at home, so there is no one saying bring your child to school, if you are anxious. We are saying, we understand that you are anxious.
"On the other hand, we are saying your anxiety should not determine the future of other children whose parents do want their children to go to school.
"So, we are supporting you to keep your child at home, we are not forcing anything down your throat. What we are saying is, don't stand in the way of the children of the parents who want to go to school."