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School break not in the interest of pupils - Schafer, Fedsas

Last night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that public schools would be closed for all ages until 24 August, with the exception of matrics and grade 7s who'll go back sooner.

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

JOHANNESBURG - Some education experts have reacted with shock and confusion at the final decision taken to allow schools to close for a month.

Teacher unions have been pushing for the Basic Education Department to shut schools until the peak of the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

Last night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that public schools would be closed for all ages until 24 August, with the exception of matrics and grade 7s who'll go back sooner.

"This means that schools will be closed from 27 July and will re-open on 24 August."

WATCH: Schools must not become sites of COVID-19 transmission - Ramaphosa

The South African Human Rights Commission has called the decision to shut schools "regrettable and unjustifiable".

The commission said that 50% of this year's academic programme had suffered due to COVID-19, with more than 100 school days wiped off the school calendar.

The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools agreed.

It said that the closure of schools for a month would have long term consequences.

The organisation's Paul Colditz: "Frankly, I was shocked to hear that it was four weeks. I think that the decision is not in the best interests of children and their education, their nutrition, their social and emotional relevance."

Many questions regarding the reopening of schools remain unanswered as the president made no mention of private schools or early childhood development facilities.

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer said that the four-week break from school was against the interest of learners.

Schafer said that last night's decision was not based on medical evidence currently available.

"I'm disappointed but not surprised that the president has capitulated to union demands for the closure of schools. I was in favour of a two-week break from school, recognising that many of our teachers worked throughout the lockdown and a break would give them time to recharge and reduce anxiety levels but a four-week break is against the interest of learners."

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