OPINION: We have to do better to protect our children

Phiri Cawe

Do I send my child to school or not?

As we welcome back more children at schools this week, one thing remains clear, we as a country have major trust issues and it needs urgent attention.

Perhaps the time has come for us to reinforce safety measures for everyone, children included.

Perhaps it is about time that we play a better supervisory role over ourselves.

The reopening of schools as the Covid-19 cases continue to increase has received major criticism from certain corners across the country.

It gained support in a few political parties too.

But the government is forging ahead.

Grades 6 and 11 pupils and some Grade Rs returned to class on Monday while Grades 7 and 12 pupils have already been back at school since the beginning of June.

Many schools claimed that they were not ready for the phasing-in of more pupils.

They cited a lot of things that could compromise the safety of children, including lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), staff shortages due to those with comorbidities working from home and fears that the virus had not yet reached its peak.

The reopening has sparked fears that children could be at risk. Another major concern is that teachers have been contracting the virus. Since Friday May 22, 755 teaching and non-teaching staff tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

For two weeks prior to the reopening, as one drives along the N2 and Stellenbosch Arterial Road, parents had been picketing with placards against the reopening. I assume those parents were from Belhar and Bonteheuwel.

I must say teachers that I spoke to really had indicated they weren’t ready to accept additional pupils.

But here is my take on the issue of schools reopening, I move around in many areas and I have always been concerned about the health of children.

Since March 27, when the lockdown started, there has been a huge concern from my side about the health of children. It was an eye-sore to see hundreds of children, I mean from 10 years upwards, all over the show. It was painful to see parents not adhering to the strict rules and regulations that were given to us by the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

With children going back to school, we now cry as if the virus resides at schools and yet we have allowed children to roam around like stray animals. I am a parent too and I am very concerned about our children’s health.

Let me say I do not know what side I support here, going back to school or staying in the location with nothing to do.

But all I know is that, I would not forgive myself if my child went to school and contracted the virus. I will always argue that I should have done better to protect her.

At the same time, it will be a great sin if my child is always indoors and still contracts the virus. That will mean I am the culprit.

Since alert level 3 and its advanced stage, parents have been too reckless. Saturdays and Sundays are boozing days, in groups. Then who is safe?

Are your children more safe at home than school? Must children suffer because of irresponsible parents?

I would prefer my child to be in school and learn for I know even at home there’s no guarantee of safety.

Maybe if it happens she contracts the virus, I will have a better excuse to say I was trying to give her a better future.

If I happen to behave irresponsibly by not wearing a mask or washing my hands and come in contact with somebody who contracted the virus and I carry it home, I would feel very bad.

There are children playing football along the N2 and some are swimming almost every day near the airport.

There are now children who were jogging but are now are sitting on the corner of Stellenbosch Arterial and Symphony Road.

It is an open secret that many of us, bayabula umhla nezolo okwe kwenkomo ezingenaninzo kodwa sithi abantwana mabangayi esikolweni. Sinxila, sinxanxatheke ingathi asinathemba kodwa kwelinye icala sizenza abantu abakhathala ngabantwana bethu.

There is a need for us as parents to reorganise not only ourselves but the education of our children. Whether there are inadequate measures to reopen schools or not, I am sending my child to school.

Hats off to Manyano High School in Khayelitsha.

I am at an advantage having this platform, so let me use it and thank the school principal Nokuzola Malgas, who recently had one of her staff members pass away.

Whether Ms Malgas you are a reader of Vukani or not, I wish this reaches your ears.

When one of your staff passed on, you showed leadership by taking your staff to do a drive-by to pay tribute to your colleague.

You respected the strict lockdown rules we have but you did not desert or leave your staff member and the family.

You showed love and care to that member of staff and the family.

To see you and your staff on YouTube paying tribute and respect to your colleague nearly brought me to tears.

I was touched to see your staff in cars, wearing graduation gowns, coming out one by one to lay flowers just outside the home of the teacher.

That touched me in many ways. I had to thank you because many schools who have lost their members simply did not care.

They never send even a mere message, let alone a flower and they are led by men.

Mam Malgas you’ve proven beyond doubt that women are ready and have been ready to lead. If I was a member of your staff, I would be proud and smiling from ear to ear knowing very well that I am in capable hands.

Should I pass away or one of you pass on, you will be there and give not only support but love. To those schools, I would not name, you are a disgrace.

To the principals of those schools, may you find love and respect for the people you claim to lead and be human beings rather than bullies and cowards.

Let us take our children to schools led by progressive women like Ms Malgas.

Enkosi Mam ngokubonisa ubukhokeli nokubonisa amadoda ukuba yintoni lento ikukuthembeka nothando. Kuwe nesigqeba sakho, makwande.