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‘A majority of pupils want to be back at school’

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Pupils face several challenges with home learning during lockdown, says Equal Education

File picture: Courtney Africa / African News Agency(ANA)

A SURVEY has shown the difficult circumstances many pupils faced while at home during lockdown, including a lack of food, learning on their own and their mental health.

Equal Education (EE), an education justice advocacy group, said its survey revealed that pupils want schools to be reopened in a safe manner, as well as for education departments to support them with remote-learning resources.

Over the past few months, EE has done two surveys: one of more than 300 pupil members (Equalisers) on school closures, and another which received 485 unique pupil responses on returning to school.

The group said both surveys were not randomised and limited to Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern and Western Cape provinces.

Of those returning to school, more than 70% reported that all Covid-19 safety measures were in place, including screening, social distancing in classrooms, access to clean toilets, water and soap or sanitiser, as well as pupils and teachers wearing masks.

“Overall the majority of pupils within our sample reported that they want to be at school, while 20% said they want to be at home. Disaggregated by province, the same trend was visible, with the exception of KwaZulu-Natal where 49% of pupils wanted to be at home,” EE said.

According to the survey, pupils reported overwhelming access to masks, with 99% saying they wore a mask at school. Of those, 86% reported receiving the mask from school.

“In addition, 94% of pupils reported that all pupils and teachers at their school wore masks, while 96% of pupils said they were screened before entering their school.”

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has said there are parents who have decided to keep their children at home due to the pandemic.

Motshekga said those parents have been told to apply to provincial education departments for home learning in terms of section 4 of the South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act No 84 of 1996).

“We advise these parents not to go to schools but rather approach the provincial education departments for help,” she said.

EE also spoke to 42 principals in five provinces, most of whom said the return of more pupils would pose challenges: “Only 10 of the principals we surveyed at the time said they would be ready to accommodate the return of the next group of pupils.

“It is important to note that these surveys do not provide an evaluation of school readiness, but rather give a sense of the experience of some pupils as grades 7 and 12 returned.”