Covid & Onderwys 5 – We love each one unconditionally

dié courant het onlangs begin om met ‘n paar mense in die onderwys te gesels oor die huidige situasie en vraagstukke midde die pandemie.
Hierdie aflewering is die praktiese vrae en mening van ‘n ervare onderwyser uit Gauteng, Annelise Boot.
She told dié courant that since 1989 she has been a dedicated and committed member of the Education Department.
“I have served under TED and GDE and have lived through five different Education ministers.

For the past 20 years I have served as a Head of Department and Lead Teacher at Springvale Primary School in Centurion (Gauteng).
I live for education, educating young minds and teaching them to think beyond society’s expectations but also to act responsibly and to take ownership of their choices and actions.
You will find me painting away in the Art Class with my learners as that is the subject I teach to 800 learners from gr4-7, every week.
As HOD I serve on the School Management Team and the departments under my management are Life Skills, Creative Arts, Life Orientation, Social Science and Economic Management Science.
Teaching is challenging on many levels, but the rewards are so much more. It makes it a calling and not just another job.

Education…which way now?
My heart is torn in two writing this article…
For the past few weeks since lockdown commenced, I have been wondering about Education and how this year will play out. Options are weighed, scenarios are considered and the questions are increasing as the answers are diminishing…
I understand the concerns of parents, children are robbed of opportunities, teachers are worried about the catch-up plan…every role player have concerns and opinions related to their frame of reference.
Let me try and explain in very basic terms what exactly the impact will be if incorrect decisions are taken and why certain aspects in Education cannot just be decided and implemented…maybe if you see the larger picture you will realize that the statement “open all schools” is slightly more complicated than what most parents think…
Keep in mind that every decision made in South Africa, for South African children, cannot be measured against international first world countries – we are nowhere close to those standards and after the Covid-19 pandemic I doubt if we will ever reach those standards – so it is therefore unrealistic to think that we can compete with Finland, Sweden and Singapore – it is realistically not possible…so be fair and compare apples with apples…
Decisions taken in Education must be seen in the light of the weakest and most vulnerable learner in the whole country…it should be to the advantage of that learner as well…and if it isn’t, then we are not a democracy, we are not human and we are definitely discriminating against that which we have been fighting for the past 26 years to correct…

Annelise Boot

Why can’t learners be taught online? They can! But NOT ALL can – this is the reality in South Africa: a parent works from home to earn a salary and there is only the parent’s laptop at home, yet in the family there are children from various grades. Let’s assume one of these children is in matric who has to attend online classes – who works first? The grade 12, the younger children or the parent who has to earn an income?

Currently many households have lost their income or have a diminished income – what weighs heaviest when making decisions for your whole family: data purchases for online classes or food, winter clothing, medication, transport? Do you realize there are children who won’t be making a choice between what meal they feel like having for lunch, because there is no food in the house – how do you focus on school work when hunger pains wrack your body?

A large part of the South African school community lives in areas where there are no laptops or internet access and therefore no online classes – do you realize the enormity of the gap that is created? And yes, you may not be bothered by this and be of the opinion that it is not your problem, but the reality is, it is “someone’s” problem and will most likely become the teacher’s problem to deal with after lockdown is eased. Such a gap always catches up with you, somewhere in the future of our economy…

Why can’t children go to school now?

They can! But are you ready to deal with what is to follow? Teachers will probably report at school at 7:00 in order to be scanned. After this your child will arrive at the school gate – the learner may not enter the premises as usual and has to stand in a queue with proper social distancing – in the cold winter weather. Are you going to complain then about children standing in the cold where they are exposed to weather and flu? Remember why we are going through this protocol in the first place.

This procedure can still be managed when one grade of approximately 200 learners, is allowed back to school, but every two weeks the numbers will increase – imagine the image in your head for a moment –queues of learners because the scanners won’t increase – learners will. Parents cannot just leave after dropping off their children – no child may enter the school premises with a temperature or 38 degrees or higher – if the parent has left, the learner will be isolated in the venue selected for them …with other sick children….these children must be collected and taken to be tested.
As soon as your child enters the school grounds it won’t be business as usual – the learners will be taken to play areas where strict social distancing measures will be implemented

Teaching will be different too – masks will be worn all the time, certain subjects like Phys Ed will be temporarily cancelled, breaks will be staggered, hugs and high fives will disappear and tuck shops won’t sell any hot food.

Who will scan your child?

A qualified health worker should according to legislation (add 25 000 employees, one per school) – no educator is trained or qualified as health worker and our rights on this matter are very clear – teachers are appointed to EDUCATE, not do health work…but the heart of a typical teacher would want to help and they will volunteer to get involved and therein lies the next problem and question…
-80% of all children are asymptomatic and shows no symptoms although they carry the virus…if your child contracts the virus at school, who will you blame? The school? The teacher who did the scanning? The Education Department? Who? The truth of the matter is you will want to hold someone responsible especially when medical bills heap up or tiny bodies of children are laid to rest….

Is your child prepared to act cautiously and responsibly without adult supervision?

A very small percentage yes, but the majority will try and test the boundaries and this is exactly the point where parent/teacher conflict will increase – because a school has the right to send your child home if your child’s conduct is unbecoming under the current national lockdown regulations and if your child’s behaviour endangers the health and lives of learners and staff on the premises.

I will be the first to demand this of my principal and SGB – why, you ask? Simply because I am also a person with rights and also want to protect my own and my family’s lives and will not tolerate anyone endangering their lives by not acting in a manner which shows respect and understanding – there will be no “I was just joking”….this matter is a non-negotiable and teachers should stand up for their rights regarding this!

Can your child accept responsibility for his/her mask? Does your child know how to use a bathroom and a toilet and wash basin and basic hygiene pertaining to his/her health? Do you realize that a worker will have to man every single bathroom every day to clean and sanitize after every use – imagine the logistical nightmare! Then spare a thought for schools where there is no running water and no flushing toilets – (politics aside – look at the reality).

Do you have someone n standby to collect your child straight after school since there will be no extra murals?
Everywhere you go you hear complaints of children missing out on so much – matric dances, sport matches, cultural events, colours, camps and tours, the list goes on…

I think the approach is very selfish – no one ordered this virus and everyone, everyone, EVERYONE in this whole wide world has had to make one or two or more sacrifices – you are not the victim here and if you spend a moment looking at life from a distance, you will realize that what you have is not your right, it is a privilege…be grateful you are only missing a matric dance – others are losing a business, an income, a loved one – so please stop complaining about what you are missing and what you will lose….try getting involved in your community and help others who may need a helping hand – a feel good feeling that will last a lifetime and make a change in someone’s life at the same time…start thinking more about others and less about yourself…
Imagine the back log if grade one’s two’s and three’s cannot complete their basic curriculum? Another generation which will be lost, like the OBE generation, without the basic principles and skills of reading, writing and mathematics…

Who will teach when the teaching corps fall ill? Schools will have to close again and learners will have to stay home…
I haven’t even begun to address matters pertaining to schools with hostels and learners who are physically and mentally challenged – the task is enormous and decisions will have far reaching effects….so it is not as easy as just “opening schools”….
Empower yourself and challenge information you hear; do research and read reliable sources, avoid gossip groups on WhatsApp and Facebook and social media, because all too often someone hears a rumor and sells it as the gospel truth – even worse is the parents who believe these half-truths without second guessing it once – you are a danger to yourself and your families….but a person who speaks from knowledge can make informed and proper decisions for their families…be like that!
Apologies to parents who have realized that their children are not the little angels they believed them to be, who have come to realize that their discipline strategy is not working and a total disaster, that you are allowing far more than you should and that there are moments when you just don’t know how to cope with or handle your child…. I truly hope that those are moments when you empathize with your child’s teacher(s) and that you feel some sense of appreciation towards teachers and for what they have actually done for your child…may you in future treat teachers with more humanity and more respect instead of the rudeness and all-important person who sometimes arrives at the gate or office….a little bit less about you and more about others…

The Department of Basic Education makes many mistakes but in all honesty rather let them postpone media briefings and take more consultations than make announcements, correct them or cancel them later.

Be grateful to unions who are fighting battles to ensure the safety of teachers, instead of just agreeing to opening schools and pray it won’t be as bad as predicted. Personally I think it is wise to gain as much information as possible…who here that sighs, moans and groans wish to stand up and take responsibility for any child or colleague’s illness or death? Anyone…?…..thought so!
Teachers are passionate about education and I believe I speak on behalf of many teachers who are currently serving – the challenges are demanding, yet we still report for duty….not because we CAN” T do anything else but because we don’t WANT to do anything else – but we are also just humans who sometimes have to perform at super human levels…

So my plea dear parents, dear communities is that we cannot JUST open schools – every decision will have a ripple effect on your child… your child who is just as important to us as he/she is to you… if we have to select a child in our class to contract the virus, we cannot, because each and every one is important to us, we love each one unconditionally…
Think before you make comments and think about the wider community…there are 13 million children whose health have to be considered…not just yours…

2 thoughts on “Covid & Onderwys 5 – We love each one unconditionally

  • May 18, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you Annelise Boot for sharing a Teacher’s perspective on this important decision. I agree and salute each Teacher/Educator!

  • May 18, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    Honest perspective from an excellent teacher ! Well done for this honest and true reflection on the pandemic and how it may influence education.


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