South Africa inequalities in education system being exposed by coronavirus

South Africa has been on lockdown for the past six weeks and it is currently showing the inequalities that exist in the country.

The spread of coronavirus in South Africa has been rampant in the past six weeks, recording a total of more than 19,000 and 369 fatalities. This has led the country to close most of its economic activities, such as education and shopping malls.

South Africa lockdown

However, the country can no longer be able to sustain a prolonged lockdown and the government is looking at measures to take in order to start reopening. Schools are some of the items on the agenda on how the government should reopen the country.

Minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga argued that that grade 7 and 12 learners would be returning back to school on June 1st. This is in a bid to facilitate school reopenings that have now been closed for almost two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, that announcement put a lot of parents, teachers union, education stakeholders and health experts on edge. Will the schools be able to ensure the safety of the students returning back to learn? Are the resources available to ensure classes can run with social distancing and the required hygiene to prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

26 years after apartheid, South Africa still faces one of the highest wealth disparities in the world. However, this has always been masked by good infrastructure in urban areas and an okay economy.

Problems facing the country

The coronavirus is now exposing the divide that has persisted in South Africa for decades. The first is the availability of the infrastructure to reopen schools. In 2014, a boy by the name Michael Komape died by falling in a pit latrine in one of the poorly developed schools. Outrage engulfed the whole country with a question on how that could have happened in a country such as South Africa.

The boy’s life could have been saved, but the environment he lived contributed to his demise due to a lack of proper toilets and sanitation rooms. Fast forward to 2020, when the entire country is exposed to the spread of coronavirus, and which hygiene is a must if it has to be defeated, the same problems still persist in the schools.

The majority of schools do not have access to clean water and they will have a much more difficult time getting their hands on sanitizers or soaps to keep their hands germs free. The decision to reopen schools by June 1st is a brave one for the minister, but it is not a realistic one. It will expose these children to untold grief and consequence because it is almost a sure bet that they will contract the virus due to the poor environment.

The second problem is the class sizes in these rural and suburban schools that were built for blacks during apartheid, and which nothing much has been done about in the last three decades.

Children are crowded in smaller rooms in the form of classes where their thirst for education is quenched. However, opening the schools during the time of coronavirus will prove to have dire consequences due inability to maintain social distancing in such classes. If schools are reopened on June 1st, this will further put a strain on the already struggling health sector as the cases of coronavirus rises in the poor regions of the country.

The third and final reason is the poor health sector, which has been on a decline, especially in rural and suburban areas. Any second wave cases will overwhelm the medical facilities leading to more fatalities due to coronavirus.

The coronavirus might be the final stroke for the government to put emphasis on infrastructure in these neglected regions. A failure to address post coronavirus will always drag the country into the abyss as exposed by the spread of coronavirus in the country.


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