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All children should return to school without delay, two academics say in report

The pair, from Stellenbosch University's Economics department, argue that keeping children out of schools can no longer be justified, adding that it is not in the best interests of the child.

A classroom at the Ga-Rankuwa Primary School, north of Pretoria on 26 May 2020. Picture: @Lesufi/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - A report by two Stellenbosch academics argues that all children should return to schools, crèches and ECD centres without any further delay.

Professor Servaas van der Berg and Dr Nic Spaull have written a report titled “Counting the Cost: COVID-19 school closures in South Africa and its impact on children.”

The pair, from Stellenbosch University's Economics department, argue that keeping children out of schools can no longer be justified, adding that it is not in the best interests of the child.

Spaull said that at the start of the pandemic there were a lot of unknown factors and now a lot more was known.

He said that the approach they took in the paper was to document some of the collateral damage that had been caused by the government's lockdown and school closures to try to weigh it up in comparison to the lives being saved by flattening the curve.

"We found is that there are a million children aged zero to six with the only adult caregiver in their household is employed. So if they go back to work, what happens to those children? Let's say 80% of them manage to find a neighbour or an extended family member or whatever it is, that still leaves 200,000 very small children aged zero to six home alone.

"In the beginning, when there was so much uncertainty, we both argued that we agreed with government's decision to lock down schools and the economy, yet now we know so much more information, so now we no longer support the government's current plan of action because we don't think nit's in the best interests of children."

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