SAHRC and DA Condemns Government’s Decision to Close Schools

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The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) are opposing the government’s decision to close public schools.

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that all public schools will close for 4 weeks as of Monday 27 July. He said the decision came after consultations with various stakeholders, who agreed that it would be beneficial to close schools for now.

While many welcomed the decision, others have condemned it, calling the President out or allegedly “bending a knee to teacher union, SADTU”. The DA has gone as far as calling President Ramaphosa a spectator president, merely taking instructions from whichever powerful interest group threatens him more.

The SAHRC said that the decision is regrettable and unjustifiable. The commission says there are dire consequences for pupils if they are not at school. It mentioned that pupils will now face an increased risk of child abuse and mental health breakdowns. The commission also pointed out what it calls inequality since poorer schools will not be able to continue learning.

DA leader, John Steenhuisen said government’s decision perpetuated inequality and went against scientific advice. “The scientific evidence is that schools do not expose learners and staff to higher levels of risk than any other places.”

He maintained that the closure of schools for four weeks was irrational because scientific evidence showed that pupils and teachers were not at a higher risk of coronavirus exposure at schools.

“This decision is not supported by the best available evidence, it is not supported by education experts, and it is not supported by the virus data,” Steenhuisen said.

In a statement on Thursday Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga seemingly agreed with Steenhuisen, citing the opinions of medical and scientific experts that pupils were better off at school.