The opposition Democratic Alliance has announced a legal challenge to South Africa’s lockdown regulations around schools and rotational timetables.
The party argues that the current one-metre distance policy means that most schools in South Africa are forced to operate on a rotational basis whereby each learner only attends school 50% of the time.
“There is no justification for continuing with rotational schooling. In the current South African context, this policy is devoid of any benefit in reducing infections,” it said.
“The purpose of the policy was to enable one-metre social distancing in classrooms, to thereby take pressure off the health system by slowing the spread of the virus. Yet, the health system has not been under pressure from the virus during the fourth wave.”
It added that the risk to schoolchildren that accrues from them missing school far outweighs the benefit to those in the high-risk group that accrues from having schoolchildren on a rotational schooling system.
“There is a need to balance the rights of the high-risk group to health with the rights of children to education. However, those individuals who have a high risk of severe disease or death from Covid have the option of getting vaccinated. There is no supply or access problem with vaccines.
“And there is evidence that vaccines are highly effective at providing protection from severe disease and death. (insert stats here). Unvaccinated individuals in the high-risk group have chosen this risk.” By comparison, schoolchildren have no choice to attend school fully, it said.
It added that rotational schooling is deepening inequality, as it disproportionately impacts poor children, who can least afford to miss school and the myriad benefits that school attendance brings.
The DA said that it plans to approach the High Court with an urgent interdict outlining these issues and directing schools to open fully.