“I had to lie and say I had a sore throat just so I can get tested. I have seen the news on TV every day of people dying. I don’t want to die.”
This was the confession of a 12-year-old pupil at Jonguhlanga Junior Secondary School in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, who was concerned she might have contracted the coronavirus at school.
Nine teachers, 122 grade 7 pupils and two non-teaching staff members were screened on Tuesday while 11 pupils and eight teachers were tested. The screening and testing comes after a teacher at the school tested positive for Covid-19 more than a week ago.
With the number of infections on the rise, and all grades except 7 and 12 set to return to school next Monday, pupils have spoken out about their fears of returning to the classroom amid the health crisis.
This comes as the Daily Dispatch reports on a document containing views from MPLs who conducted oversight visits to schools in June that several facilities have failed to meet required health and safety standards.
The grade 7 Jonguhlanga pupil said she was worried about her status because “the teacher that coughed and tested positive was in my class”. She said a number of others had lied so that they would be tested by health workers.
“We had to. We are worried about our health,” she said. “Our teacher was not wearing a mask. I was not scared to test. My only fear is having the virus.”
A grade 4 pupil at Holy World Private School in Mthatha said he was worried that going back to school would put their lives at risk.
“I don’t want to go back to school. I fear getting this virus. I would rather stay home. We should return to school only when this pandemic is over,” said the 11-year-old.
A grade 6 pupil at St Joseph’s Primary School in Mthatha, who uses private scholar transport, said she wanted to return to school so she could pass.
“I want to realise my dream of being a doctor so I can help fight future pandemics. I fear the virus, but I will follow the regulations to protect myself while at school because I know this virus kills,” she said.
A grade 9 pupil at Selborne College in East London said: “We should go back to school so that we can reach our full potential and for our teachers to help us out. There’s nothing much I am scared of about going back to school besides the fact that I don’t think we will be able to maintain the 1m distance during break times.”
He sympathised with basic education minister Angie Motshekga, who was under immense pressure over the reopening of schools.
“Her decision is a good decision because I am in grade 9 and I have subject choices at the end of the year so that’s a crucial part in my career and I feel I should be at school to make an informed decision. I would feel safe at school as they are sanitising the school and all the regulations will be met.”
A grade 8 pupil based in Johannesburg said he had decided to repeat his grade next year. He returned home to Ngqeleni when the government opened the seven-day travelling period in May.
“There is no way I am going back there because of the lockdown numbers. I have one life and going back to school puts that life at risk. Opening of schools should be postponed until this virus dies down. It’s not safe.”
DispatchLIVE reported on Wednesday that Eastern Cape superintendent-general Themba Kojana has proposed that all school pupils, except those in matric, stay away from school until August 3 as the number of infections continues to rise in the province. He said this would allow the department time to implement further control measures.
TimesLIVE reported on Wednesday that a National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) report has found that Covid-19 is “uncommon” in SA children, including schoolgoing children aged five to 18.
In cases which had been analysed, “respiratory comorbidities were most frequently reported, with asthma being the most frequent, followed by current and past tuberculosis”.
Precautions should still be taken, the NICD said.
“The number of deaths in this population was small, but any severe illness in children in this age group is concerning nonetheless and steps to minimise Covid-19 transmission such as physical distancing and use of masks should be consistently applied where possible, even among children,” the report found.
TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)