More than half of South Africans want schools to stay closed: study

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With schools set to reopen on January 27, as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise, a growing number of South Africans have expressed support for the continued school closures.

This was one of the main findings of a survey conducted by the University of Johannesburg and the Humanities Research Council (HSRC), which was conducted between December 30, 2020 and January 6, 2021.

The online survey was completed by 10,618 participants. The results have been weighted to match Statistics South Africa data on race, education and age, and can be considered broadly representative of the population as a whole.

In July of last year, against a similar backdrop of rising infections, the government made the decision to postpone the reopening of schools. It would make sense for him to do it again, the researchers said.

“At the time, the President’s main argument was based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) that infection among teachers and learners would spread to the community and vice versa, and that the reopening of schools could lead to a further increase in cases. .

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“This assessment remains powerful, especially when there is evidence to suggest that the new 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19 is more transmissible.”

Main conclusions

The main findings of the study show that:

  • 53% of adults think schools should remain closed until the situation improves;
  • 19% of adults believe schools should reopen only for grades 7 and 12;
  • 19% of adults think schools should reopen at all levels;
  • 9% of adults “don’t know”.

Attitudes towards opening schools were consistent across gender. 52% of men and 53% of women believe that schools should not reopen until the situation improves.

However, the differences on whether schools should reopen differed based on income, race and type of accommodation, the researchers said.

“People with lower incomes were more likely to oppose the reopening of schools than those with higher incomes. 53% of those earning less than R1,000 per month were against reopening schools, compared with 41% of those earning more than R20,000 per month, a difference of 12 percentage points. “

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Attitudes towards reopening schools also differed by race. Indian adults were the most strongly opposed to reopening schools, with 77% saying schools should not reopen until the situation improves.

The colorful and black African adults were also opposed. 63% of adults of color and 52% of black Africans do not think schools should reopen. In contrast, only 37% of white adults were opposed to the reopening of schools.

The low level of public support for children returning to school should be read alongside a key finding from the first cycle of the UJ / HSRC survey, which ran from April 13 to May 11, 2020, which showed that 79 % of adults were “ very concerned ” that the “ coronavirus situation will have a negative impact on (their) child’s education, ” the researchers said.

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“The survey results show that the majority of adults oppose the reopening of schools as Covid-19 cases continue at their current high levels.

“This opposition is strongest among the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged sections of society, who are less likely to have confidence in the ability of their schools to provide a safe environment for learners.

“These results show that while parents are deeply concerned about their children’s education, they are equally, if not more, concerned about the safety of their children, families and communities,” said Professor Carin. Runciman, associate professor at UJ at the Center for Social. Change.


Read: Schools open in South Africa under discussion, as concerns grow over ‘repeat of last year’s mistakes’

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