Dear South African Government
We greet you in the name of peace and freedom. Thank you for overseeing the country during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We, the under-mentioned concerned high school and primary school principals herewith make an urgent appeal to our honourable president and all members of cabinet. Our appeal is for Government to review its decision to reopen schools. We opine, with great conviction that the decision to reopen primary and high schools on the 1st June was the wrong one. We contend that the timing is bad as wintry weather brings with it seasonal illness such as influenza. The coronavirus thrives under cold conditions and will also augment and exacerbate the onset of the flu and tuberculosis. At the time of writing this letter, incidents of teacher and children suffering and deaths due to COVID-19 are rising.
As concerned principals, we are invoking constitutional, revolutionary and spiritual values in reaching out to you, our country’s leaders.
We are not health or scientific experts but we do have combined years of experience of teaching and leading on the ground at school. These years of activism at the coalface should count as an important subjective trajectory of human life above a curriculum. Our concern about our teachers’ and children’s health and safety is born out of great love for people and their basic needs. As principals who care, we have to consider and fight for the rights to life of human beings under our watch. Our children and teachers are terrified of contracting the coronavirus. The anxiety around COVID-19 is palpable. School is about community. There is great concern about the contagious nature of the disease and how this will lead to more suffering of our people in broader society. The extra workload with regards to health screening, now foisted onto the teachers is adding to the anxiety.
Personal Protective Equipment such as masks are no guarantee against infection. Reports are emerging that the wearing of a mask for a considerable amount of time can be deadly. Teachers and children are subject to even more anxiety with the extra fear of what mask-wearing can bring about.
We appeal to our comrades in Government to review the decision to reopen schools. We ask that schooling be suspended countrywide. We as principals in the trenches would love to meet with a cabinet task team to discuss the suitability of a postponed reopening. During our deliberations, we appeal to the Government to categorically address the inequality in the South African Education System. The inequality is manifest in thousands of schools of the poor not having proper infrastructure and water and sanitation. The majority of poor schools also do not have libraries and physical science laboratories.
We are willing to meet with a DBE delegation to discuss a postponement of the external matric examinations and a trimming of the subject lesson content.
We ask that you receive our request favourably and we look forward to meeting with you in the best interest of our country’s teachers and students.
Mr Isaac Arendse (Steenberg High)
Mr. Noel Isaacs (Floreat Primary)
Mr. Vincent Hendricks (Athlone High)
Mr. Wesley Neumann (Heathfield High)
PS. We call on principals everywhere to speak out against the early reopening of schools.
This Open Letter was originally released on 19 June 2020, and was submitted to Karibu! on 26 July. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.