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Gradual re-opening of schools: School communities assuming responsibility are the real winners

The announcement by the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, that Grade 6 and 11 learners will return to school this week has once again focused the spotlight on inequality in the school system.

In this case, however, it has nothing to do with the different levels of prosperity, by the various school communities' commitment.

Smaller and independent schools rely heavily on every parent and child to make their micro-educational system work. And therefore, such schools have been allowed to re-open more than the prescribed grades.

In the meantime, the Department of Basic Education has come up with some creative models. Every school will be allowed to implement these models, depending on its local circumstances, to make education and social distancing possible. Seeing as inadequate infrastructure is a key problem in South African schools, these models are absolutely necessary.

The decisive aspect of the successful re-opening of schools is that decisions must be devolved to school level. This follows decades during which educational decisions were centralised – something that the FF Plus criticised sharply throughout.

In addition, the importance of water supply to schools has come to the fore again. For many schools that are not in the position to re-open, the main problem is inadequate water supply.

Ultimately, the state setup may be an integrated whole, but poor service delivery in one area affects the ability to deliver other basic services as well. In the absence of a government that has neither the will nor the ability to fulfil its duties, local communities are becoming more and more important.

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