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The education sector was hit the hardest by COVID-19 and additional looting – How can we save our children?

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The global Coronavirus pandemic has hit the education sector the hardest by far, especially in South Africa. Our third-world country was not at all ready for the online teaching and learning environment at all, as a lot of schools in underprivileged areas do not even have access to proper sanitation and classrooms.

Just to put everything into perspective, there were only 93 days of schooling between March 2020 and June 2021 and most primary school learners in South Africa have lost 70%-100% (this is almost a full year!) of schooling compared to 2019 according to data from the latest National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) shows.

As if the pandemic was not enough, South Africa has been hit with political riots in most of the provinces and looting happened on a big scale. A lot of businesses and schools were affected and some were damaged beyond repair. KwaZulu-Natal was by far hit the hardest and 139 schools were damaged or directly affected. One school was burnt down completely, while damage was done to others to the roofs, windows and of course the furniture. Equipment that was used for a school nutrition programme was also stolen, which means that learners that are dire in need of meals are now not being fed. Four schools in Gauteng were also directly affected.

With the spike in Coronavirus infections caused by the third wave, South Africa went into a level 4 lockdown which forced schools to reopen on Monday 26 July. There comes a change together with this – all government schools were expected to return in some capacity and a timetable has been set up for primary school learners from Grades R – 7 to return to school from the 2nd August. Along with this rules and regulations have to be enforced and complied with in the form of wearing masks and social distancing. 

The question now is how to save our children and give them the quality education that is a human right in our country. Already there is a massive gap in basic education that had to be conducted online and lost time can never be made up for. The University of Cape Town (UCT) has done something absolutely phenomenal and they have announced that they are launching an online high school with the students being able to start in January 2022. 

“The University of Cape Town is committed to playing our part in addressing the systemic challenges facing our education system. As a result, we have taken the bold step to launch an innovative online high school in January 2022, where the academic excellence of UCT can be extended to high school learners across the country,” said UCT’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

The only hope for our children would be if private sectors and other higher education establishments actually stand together and conduct the same initiative and create better opportunities for learning to pave the way forward to a future that has to be rebuilt from scratch.

The education sector was hit the hardest by COVID-19 and additional looting – How can we save our children?


Inge Liebenberg




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