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Decision on closing schools expected tonight

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Residents are holding their breath for an expected announcement by the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, or President Cyril Ramaphosa on whether schools will remain open.

Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

ANXIETY is mounting as parents, pupils and teachers await an expected announcement on whether schools will be closed as the country reaches the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic. 

In the Northern Cape, more than 80 schools have been closed as a result of infections and R30 million has already been spent by the provincial Department of Education on decontaminating school premises.

Residents are holding their breath for an expected announcement by the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, or President Cyril Ramaphosa on whether schools will remain open.

Reports are rife  that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) has tabled recommendations that schools be closed for the next three weeks.

Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation at 8pm tonight on the latest developments in the country’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of Covid-19.

Ramaphosa’s address follows a number of meetings with the command council.

With 89 schools in the Northern Cape already closed due to Covid-19 thus far, parents of matric pupils in the Province indicated that they were unsure whether the academic year could still be saved; and many have suggested that schooling should be postponed for all pupils.

One parent said that while she had initially believed that schools should remain open, especially for matrics, the reality had proved otherwise.

“I was optimistic when the matrics returned to school on June 8. I sent my son back to school believing that his chances of contracting the virus were minimal because they had the entire school building to themselves. At first, the whole sanitising and screening process, including the wearing of shields and masks, put me at ease. I also saw that there were not many pupils at school as not all the grades had returned,” said the parent.

“However, about two weeks into the reopening of schools we heard about the first cases of Covid-19 at schools. It is worrisome as these cases were happening even though only the Grade 12 and Grade 7 pupils were back at school. This just shows that our children are not safe and the situation will only get worse if more grades return.”

The parent pointed out that the virus is easy to contract and scientists are saying that it is airborne.

“The best thing that the department can do now is to cancel the academic year for all grades, even the matrics. It is not as if the matrics are immune to the virus. They are just as susceptible as anyone else,” she said.

Another parent of a matric pupil said that she was also concerned about the safety of her child in light of the increasing number of infections in the Province.

“The rate of infections is skyrocketing by the day. There were a number of previous reports that young children’s immune systems were strong enough to fight the virus. However, so many children have tested positive for Covid-19 and every day more and more schools are being closed. 

“We realise that our children are not safe anywhere but it is better to know that our children are at home. Nobody wants to send their child to school and, instead of getting an education, they contract a virus. 

“The best option is for the department to temporarily close the schools. My child is under tremendous pressure as they have to focus on their studies and push to complete the year, although they are terrified that they will get sick.

“Every child dreams about their matric ball and completing their school career on a high note but this year’s matrics are praying to just stay alive. So many of their milestones and school highlights have been cancelled. There are no matric dance pictures of my child for me to remember this year. 

“My child even mentioned one day that the children in his class felt that 2020 was a disaster. They are separated from their friends and relatives and have to ensure they make it out alive.”

By Wednesday evening, the number of Covid-19 cases in the Northern Cape had risen to  2 727, with the hardest hit areas being the Sol Plaatje municipal area, with 960 positive cases, and Umsobomvu (519 cases), Ga Segonyana (242) and Emthanjeni (230).

The Kamiesberg municipal area, however, only has one case, while Karoo Hoogland and Richtersveld have four cases each. !Kheis has six cases and Kgatelopele has seven.