Grade R pupils returning to school will do more harm

Only three out of the seven grades are expected to return to school next week, according to the Department of Basic Education and Council of Education Ministers (CEM). This decision comes as the department faces a lot of pressure from parents and unions who are calling for the academic year to be suspended. Grade R is among the grades that will be returning to school next week but will it be for the good of the pupils or will it do them more harm?

The Department of Basic Education didn’t make a wise decision by announcing that grade R pupils should return to school. These learners are between ages from four to five years and are still too young to comprehend the dangers of contracting Covid-19. They still need to be under parental supervision considering the spike in infections of Covid-19. After learners and teachers returned to school on 8 June 2020, many of them were found infected with the coronavirus. 775 schools in South Africa were affected by COVID-19 whilst 523 students and 1,169 teachers had contracted the virus since their return. Imagine the danger that parents would be facing when they send their children in grade R back to school. It’s quite clear that they will be infected as well.

Children are the most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus because they will not adhere to the regulations – which include constantly wearing masks and sanitising hands. Grade R pupils are learning to interact with their environment. They hold, touch, throw, run and interact physically with one another by hugging, shaking hands. As such, it would be unwise since the virus could easily be transmitted through those activities. Education is important but not at the cost of the children’s health as their health should come first. It is irresponsible for the government to say children need to go back to school whilst Covid-19 infections and deaths are rapidly rising.

Understandably, the government’s decision to reopen schools is an attempt to rescue the academic year and every child has the right to education according to the Constitution of South Africa. However despite all the government’s efforts, Covid-19 has already disrupted the 2020 academic year and will continue to do so throughout this year and the next.

Homeschooling is the best solution for grade R pupils. Some parents took to social media, saying they will not allow their children to return to school especially now that the numbers of coronavirus cases are drastically increasing. Parents need to familiarise themselves with the necessary requirements for homeschooling. For parents who are considering homeschooling they can register their children at the Provincial Education Department.

The Grade R class should return to school at a later stage when the numbers of coronavirus cases are declining. Until then, their parents should be encouraged to enroll their children in homeschooling.

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