8 June 2020 signals the return to school for millions of learners, starting with those in grades 7 and 12. This indicates hope for the rescue of the academic year which had already been written off by many. However, it also raises uncertainty and fear about what this means for the health and safety of our children and that of their educators in light of COVID-19.
The Department of Basic Education in compliance with provincial departments and schools has implemented regulations and health and safety measures for the protection of all involved, which include deep cleaning and sanitising of the school and the provision of PPE for both teachers and learners. They have even declared that schools which fail to “comply with the minimum health, safety and social distancing measures on Covid-19 … will remain closed until all the measures are in place.”
But what if you are still not convinced that sending your bundle of joy back to school is the best action? What if you elect to keep your child at home due to underlying health conditions which render it unsafe for him/her to return to school under the current conditions? In the Media Statement on the “Corona Virus COVID-19 Readiness for the re-opening of Schools” the Minister of Basic Education, on 1 June 2020 advised that “A parent, who chooses not to send a learner to school, must apply to the Head of the Provincial Education Department, who in the terms of the South African Schools Act, can exempt a learner entirely, partially or conditionally from the compulsory school attendance, if such an exemption is in the best interest of the learner.”
Does this mean that once exempted your child can spend the rest of the year surfing the internet or indulging in endless hours in front of TV? No! Whether at school or at home, your child will need to be educated. As a parent you will be required to apply for “home education in terms of the relevant section of the South African Schools Act.” Some provinces and/or schools have undertaken to make provision for the use of online or e-learning material to accommodate different learning circumstances, including learners who have special needs or are ill. All of this requires that parents must communicate with the schools.
What if you decide to send your child to school? Well, he/she will be obliged to comply with the health and safety regulations set by the school, which will among others include:
Remember knowledge is power therefore, to eliminate any anxiety and to help your child cope, you will need to:
It is without a doubt a challenging time for both parents and children, however we are a resilient nation and we shall overcome this as well.
We wish you and your children all of the best with the return to school.
For more information on the above, you may refer to the statement by the Minister or the DBE notice of the Disaster Management Act, from the links below: