South Africa: As Painful As It Gets - the Great School Reopening Debate


The decision by the Department of Basic Education to delay the reopening of government schools has been supported, but at the same time harshly criticised. In reality, making such a difficult choice during the second wave was always going to lead to high temperatures and sharpening divisions.

On Friday, the Basic Education Department announced it would delay the reopening of government schools until 15 February. Officials also said they would ask independent schools to delay their reopening (legally the department cannot force them to postpone -- each school can make its own decision -- and spare a thought for those running private schools; they are being asked by the department, on the one hand, to not reopen in the interests of social solidarity while the parents, who have moved away from the government schools, are likely to demand they reopen).

While trying to enforce the reopening of schools in January would have led to huge opposition, it may well have lessened the sharpening divides along class and race lines that we are likely to see now. And perhaps it would do more to protect children during the pandemic, but also in terms of their life-chances after this calamity is over....

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