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Human rights body challenges Ramaphosa’s schools closure

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The South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Thursday condemned the public announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday evening, for schools to ‘take a break’ from 27 July to 24 August, except for those in Grades 7 and 12 while teachers would only take a week-long break.

SAHRC utterly condemned the president’s decision on the grounds that, more harm was being done to children who were not in school, basing on statistics provided by UNICEF

“This decision means that by 24 August, over 10 million South African children, depending on the grade they are in, will have lost over 50% or 100 scheduled school days as a result of Covid-19 school closures. The commission’s view on the opening of schools is guided by the evidence provided by a range of researchers that point to the devastating consequences of children not being at school,” said SAHRC.

Some of the reasons listed by SAHRC against closure of schools encompasses evidence of increased high risk of child abuse, mental health breakdowns with rising rates of depression and anxiety. More so pupils are said to have a high risk of being left home alone when their caregivers go to work. Furthermore, Poorer children are said to regress significantly in terms of reading and maths skills during extended absence from school coupled with Increases in inequality, since poorer pupils and schools are least able to continue learning.

“The SAHRC’s survey, with over 4 500 respondents, shows that 43% of schools intend to request approval to deviate from the dates published for the opening of schools. Both these factors are likely to exacerbate the inequalities in education,” noted SAHRC. The Gauteng High Court this month ordered the Department of Basic Education to roll out a National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) to all eligible children, regardless of whether they returned to school or not. This development came after Equal Education (EE) filled an urgent application for school children to receive meals on a day to day basis.

“On the other hand, the commission welcomes the announcement by Ramaphosa that all nine million qualifying learners who have not yet returned to school will be provided with meals in line with the judgment of the Gauteng North High Court on 17 July,” highlighted SAHRC.

Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADC News Correspondent

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