The most appropriate form of education in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic lies in the hands of parents themselves. The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Ms Makgabo Mhaule, confirmed on Tuesday evening that children will not be forced to return to schools when these institutions re-open for Grade sevens and twelves on the 1st of June. That is on one condition, though, and that is that education must continue at home. The Minister, Ms Angie Motshekga, made it very clear that the phasing in of learners at smaller schools will be approached differently from large schools.
It is evident that the clashing objectives of parents who want to protect their children against Covid-19 and the need for schools to re-open as parents return to work is complicating decision-making in basic education. The objectives of trade unions that want to protect their members also play a role.
Although scientific data currently shows that children generally only develop mild symptoms of Covid-19, they could be carriers of the virus which could result in vulnerable persons in their household getting infected. Thus, the FF Plus pleaded over the last few weeks that school attendance should not be compulsory; and this applies both to parents who want their children to return to the schools that are ready to re-open as well as those who do not.
What this achieves is that parents and communities can take greater responsibility for the education of their children, with the blessing of the authorities. It is imperative that a high quality of education is maintained. If parents or even smaller community schools feel that they are up for the task, they must make use of all the resources at their disposal, including the services of commercial education providers.
This development is in line with the FF Plus’s policy that decisions regarding education should be left up to the relevant community. Although the government may still be under the impression that the Department of Basic Education is the most important stake holder in education, what happens in practice in the foreseeable future may soon prove the contrary.