South Africa: Open or Closed, South African Schools Need Radical Social Change


If one compares schools to cars, a tiny minority own multiple luxury sedans, 4x4s, or bakkies. A second, small group of households own one or more Toyota Corollas or Volkswagen Polos. A third, larger group of households share access to 'skedonks': old, beat-up, stuck-together-so-they-barely-work, unsafe, third-hand cars. Most of our schools are skedonks.

Millions of people are hungry. Millions of children are out of school. Poor children are learning least of the formal curriculum and will likely be consigned to unemployment on a massive scale. Simultaneously, a wealthy, mostly white minority are living online in islands of luxury. This is South Africa, every day, of every week, of every year. Avoiding this reality is an ideological choice that misdirects public discourse. Covid-19 has intensified oppression; it must not be used to hide a desperate need for radical change.

Real uncertainties and real data

Media debate about closing versus reopening schools is problematic on its own terms. The World Health Organisation recommends that decisions about schooling be made as part of a society-wide, long-term response informed by accurate data. Targeted testing and tracing are increasingly inadequate to provide timeous local-level data on community transmission. Yet, the government continues to announce dates,...

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