Primary and Secondary schools in South Africa have re-opened as part of a gradual easing of COVID-19 lockdown in the country which has almost 50,000 cases of the viral disease with almost 1,000 deaths.
Children returned to schools on Monday despite a protest by teachers’ unions who last week urged school staff not to resume citing insufficient health and hygiene measures to keep teachers and pupils safe.
But on Sunday, the country’s Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said government had ramped up efforts to equip schools over the past week.
“The golden rule is there will be no school that will resume if not ready to do so,” Motshekga said, adding that alternative arrangements will be made for pupils at schools unable to open on Monday.
The schools’ re-opening had been fixed for June 1 but was postponed amid delays in sanitation procedures including the provision of water and protective clothing.
South African schools were shut mid-March after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country on March 5. Protests that followed the lockdown on March 27 led to vandalism and arson in 1,672 schools.
Government officials say schools need to resume in order to reduce the risk of children losing key parts of their education and slipping into petty crimes due to idleness.