Fear as schools reopen

Schools will introduce a number of safety measures when pupils and teachers return to the classroom on Monday June 1.

Hout Bay schools are preparing to reopen on Monday June 1, after being closed for two months under the Covid-19 lockdown, but many parents fear for their children’s safety.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday May 19 that schools would reopen in phases from Monday June 1 with Grade 7s and matrics in the first wave.

Sheila Maasdorp, of Hangberg, said she would not to be sending her three children back to school.

“This virus keeps growing every single day. The amount of people dying grows every single day and our government decided to send kids back to school during these times. It’s a joke.”

One of her children is due back on Monday and her two other children will be phased in over the next few months.

“You cannot explain to a child social distancing. They have not seen their friends in a while and one slip up from anybody at the school could result in some serious stuff,” she said. “The government is sending our children into a death trap.”

Lindiwe Mluthu, of Imizamo Yethu, has to return to work under level 3 and she said she would likely have little choice but send her two children back to school. She has a child in each of the grades being phased in on Monday.

“I feel very worried for both of my children, because I know they want to return to school and I know I have to go back to work. For me it’s not easy to make a decision on this.”

Eugon Davids, a single father of a Hout Bay High School matriculant, said he faced a tough decision, as he did not want to sacrifice his son’s academics but also didn’t want him to catch Covid-19.

“I know I want him to succeed, but this virus is not getting any better. He is not going to stay away from friends, he won’t keep his distance and how do I know he won’t be touching anything that has the virus on it?”

Parents aren’t the only ones who are worried.

Principals and teachers are also anxious about how they’re going to keep Covid-19 out of the classroom.

Hout Bay Primary School principal Nobuntu Mayekiso said masks, gloves, sanitisers and bleach had been delivered but her staff were showing signs of panic.

“We are gradually trying to make sure that teachers get the information needed about the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

Ms Mayekiso said the school had issued staff with masks and started briefing teachers on screening and sanitising measures.

Hout Bay Primary maths teacher Matthew Mxinwa fears for his safety. “No plan is watertight in making sure that everyone is safe,” he said.

The school was waiting to hear from the department, he said, on its plan to use the “platoon” method, getting pupils to attend school on alternate days or different times.

“We as teachers intend to screen everyone including pupils. We are going to monitor the pupils to make sure that the physical distancing is observed,” Mr Mxinwa said, adding that all teachers at the school would be involved with playground supervision during break time.

At Kronendal Primary School, teachers have also been briefed on Covid-19 safety measures.

School principal, Nathan Levendal said: “The planning and logistics are significant but at Kronendal Primary, we have a willing team, ready to work together, and we are ready to face this challenge. We know that the road ahead will be tough, and we will be stretched.”

Their pupils’ health and safety were their top priority, and soap, masks and sanitiser would be available, he said.

The school would also heed pupils’ concerns about the virus, he said.

“People’s fears are real and there is a lot to manage. The unknown is always scary. We have put a huge amount of work into preparing the school to be Covid compliant. Schools around the country have their work cut out for them.”

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the education department had made allowances for staff and pupils with co-morbidities to stay home, “but the idea is to not lose any more valuable time academically this year”.

It was important for institutions and industries to return to a “new normal” as quickly as possible, he said, to save livelihoods and the future.