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COVID-19: Warning of ‘devastating consequences’ over school closures

Earlier this week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that all public schools would go on recess for the next four weeks to prevent schools from becoming COVID-19 hot spots as infections peak.

Classroom desks at Talfalah Primary School are fitted with handmade Covid-19 protective screens. Image: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has expressed concern over government’s decision to keep schools closed for all grades, except grades 7 and 12.

Earlier this week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that all public schools would go on recess for the next four weeks to prevent schools from becoming COVID-19 hot spots as infections peak.

However, the commission said this move would see over 10 million South African children lose out on over half of the scheduled school days.

It also cited evidence suggesting the move to keep children in their homes can also cause harm.

The SAHRC said its researchers detailed how the closure of schools would have devastating consequences for some pupils. The commission said with children only returning to the classroom in late August, there would be a detrimental increase in inequalities and academic regression.

It includes increases in hunger and malnutrition while others will fall further behind those from wealthier families.
Children were also at high risk of being left home alone while their caregivers went to work.

The commission's Chris Nissen said the risk of child abuse and mental health breakdowns would also surge.

“There are these issues, particularly in poorer areas where people don’t have access. Every effort must be made to breach the gap in access to learning between those who can afford to learn from home and those who can’t.”

The commission said it would monitor the provision of food for over nine million qualifying children and the provision of learning materials.

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