By Nkateko Mabasa
I would like to appeal to all South Africans, with all the respect that a young person addressing his elders does, to not send your kids to school tomorrow.
As a country we have been complaining about the poor conditions of schools for years now and have no reason to believe that this ‘corrupt’ and ‘non-performing’ government suddenly has everything under control.
I understand why people would go back to work to save the economy and their jobs. Sending your kids to school at a time like this, however, is plainly and simply wrong. If we allowed schools to open, we would be exposing learners to the same fate as those miners, prisoners and healthcare workers – both in private and public hospitals – who have all contracted the virus so far since the lockdown regulations have been eased.
Personally, I was against opening the economy before the curve was at least flatter, but I also understood that many people are going hungry and have lost both their formal and informal businesses. We all saw how our government could not even run a simple food parcel distribution project properly. I’m sure that someone internally, had to be corrupt, and take a chunk of the money. We all know how they are.
I therefore ask all parents to keep their children home. They are safest there with you. I am hoping that as Africans, who know all too well how it feels like to be neglected by this ANC government, we can see right through the false promises from the Department of Education. How many times have politicians promised to do only the basic service delivery requirements in every election since this “democracy” started?
I don’t trust that they have everthing under control under the pandemic and neither should you.
The debate to bring back the role of ‘school inspectors’ – an excellent idea corrupted by the previous regime – is so controversial we can’t even properly judge the state of readiness in schools, especially in far flung places. The confused communication from ministers is nothing new. It’s just that currently we are all paying attention. Our young people are not going to be safe when they go back to class
Even if you are rich and live in a DA run metro, like the Western Cape, and your child goes to a private school, you still have no guarantee against contracting it. You never know which asymptotic child will infect another learner in class or a teacher, who will take the virus back home to their family. No parent should risk their child’s life like that or their own.
As a country we will fight about the land and the economy later. Right now, however, parents need to be parents and each parent needs to take care of their own children, whilst also looking around to see if there are other neglected youths who need shelter. We can disagree about the legality of government lockdown regulations; the cigarette ban; the alarming rate of alcohol consumption; churches reopening and the wisdom of going to level 3. But if the next generation is not kept safe then why do we even need an economy to protect. Why do we even need to go to our jobs, if not for them?
Times like these require a united country to protect its inheritors. Even I – a staunch Africanist – worry about what will happen to white children as schools open. Please South African parents – don’t send your kids into possible harm like that. A bored teenager at home is better than one with Coronavirus.
Our efforts should be spent on figuring out innovative ways learners can still use to finish the school year, especially those anxious matriculants outside of congested classrooms. If we really wanted, we could solve the issue of the school year with old school Mzansi streetwise ingenuity. There are already existing community structures in villages, townships and suburbs to coordinate local, carefully-monitored tutoring sessions and then online testing.
They can be held by a local teacher in the community or tutor online – connecting with learners via family or community WhatsApp groups and on Facebook. Multi-billion Rand companies could redirect their charity funds to push the government to ‘roll-out’ universal wi-fi. It will take a lot of money to install network towers and broadband cables, especially in villages and informal settlements, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We have a plethora of construction companies ready to take up the tender.
The corporate sector already makes an excessive amount of money in South Africa. They can afford to skim off a few billions for a nation building cause like this. For example, Johann Rupert – a man seen as the face of White Monopoly Capital – has a net worth of R105 billion, as the richest man in South Africa. Which means that even if he were to give away R50 billion worth of his assets today, he would still live comfortably with R55 billion.
There is enough money in this country to ensure that our children are safe from this deadly pandemic, whatever the innovative and expensive idea the experts can come up with, for learners to finish the school year in the safest way possible.
Community structures like our society groups, informal traders associations, party branches, neighbourhood watches and book clubs could be activated and used, via local public officials or community leaders, to keep a regular check on learners under the threat of violence in their homes.
There are far more capable gender activists than me, that the department of education in conjunction with social development can approach, for their learned experience on how to reach a network of communities in their homes. This school opening issue is not the way.
If and only when necessary, the lessons can be done in person and held in frequently sanitised large spaced community halls or homes, where the tutor sits a few meters away from the learner, while wearing protective equipment in a controlled environment. We desperately need to limit transmissions in and out of communities. This is just a layman’s random idea. But I am sure education analysts have thought more deeply about how best to finish the academic year during a lockdown.
At the end of the day, any parent knows that kids are just kids. You can put as many rules as you like. They will be neglectful and intentionally or mistakenly break those rules. That is why you are the parent and they are the child. We can’t simply believe that Grade 7’s and Grade 12’s, even with all their quirky genius as “Ama2000”, are suddenly going to turn into responsible adults, without having gone through an embarrassing but formative first year of varsity yet.
The ANC is at a point where it can’t even help itself. It has been every man for himself since Nelson Mandela unilaterally started having secret negotiations with himself and the white elites and was moved to a fancy prison house with a pool. Every ANC cadre is simply waiting for his turn to share in the wealth of the party. Some have been waiting since the start of the negotiated settlement. We will not find hope there.
Each parent should use their own experience with how this government handles everything to judge whether the promises of the department of education can be trusted when they say schools are ready and our children will be safe.
Our most redeeming feature as a country, however, is that we have a lot of creativity and innovation to solve any problem if we are up to it. This is the time to be patriotic about something we can all agree about – our schooling system is bad. This is a commonly known fact that unites us all, regardless of race, class or gender, on social media and within activist movements.
Schools have been getting worse every year with each new introduction of the latest curriculum, a lower pass mark or meddling by unions and politicians. How many times have we heard reports of delinquent teachers not showing up to school or learners engaged in violent fights?
Fortunately for me, my son is still 10 months old. I haven’t even gotten to the stage where I must think seriously about schools, teachers and homework. But if I did, and if he was a teenager, I wouldn’t let my baby boy out of that door.
He would probably complain and use all sorts of slang, that young people like to use, to show that they are frustrated. I would take it like a man, and like any parent should be, by secretly consoling myself in this fact – regardless of how he feels, at the end of the day he is safest here at home with me.
Above all these fancy words, keeping our children safe still remains the most important thing.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vernac News.