COVID-19 & Access to Education

Tuesday 5 May 2020
Children make up 35% of the South African population and according to the Child Gauge (2018) in 2017, 11.2 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 were found to have attended some form of educational facility. This figure constitutes 98% of the country’s children. Given these numbers, our issues as children should be taken seriously.

Traditionally, a child is considered a blessing to society and as children, we should be allowed to prosper and our voices should be heard. This means we must be included in decision-making, on all matters that affect us, including education, social issues, health and child participation. This is mandatory according to the Constitution.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 government, parents and caregivers should act in our best interests. This pandemic has exposed the inequalities that have existed in our country for a very long time. For example, we are currently advised to study online, however the majority of us do not have the necessary resources. This is because most of us come from poor families and communities. 

Inequalities that exist in the education system have also been exposed. In most cases, provinces that are more resourced have produced top matric results. Most of us have no access to things like smart-cellphones, data, television, and other gadgets or access to textbooks to self-educate. Other families do not even have access to clean and/or running water and electricity. So, the outbreak of COVID-19 has denied us access to education. Vulnerable children, particularly from rural areas and townships will suffer the most because of these inequalities. In the end we will be expected to write the same exam papers, as the ones who were able to study online.
 
In response to current situation of learning we recommend the following:
  • Equal access to learning for all children – or online learning stops during lockdown if there is no access
  • Provide gadgets like tablets where there is a need - rural provinces should be prioritized.
  • Assist learners with data 
  • Work with Civil Society Organisations and learners in developing strategies in education moving forward. 
To whom it may concern!
 
Hear our voices 
We depend on you 
We are the future and the future starts small 
Consider our feelings, reach out to us
You are our hope and we will be your hope to 
Wash our hands and we will wash yours to 
Help us and we will help you too
Love us and we will love you too
Who am I?
 
I am a child - a little flower 
I am a precious smile 
 
By Nsuku Valentine Shivambu, a 17-year-old child rights activist from Alexandra Township, Johannesburg.