Malikah Swail attends Elsies River High School and wrote in her letter that while she has looked forward to matric, getting sick and possibly dying from Covid-19 is not worth going back to school for.
Part of the letter reads: “I always thought that the biggest stress I would endure during my matric year would be exams and the heavy workload, but I was wrong.
“Now the biggest stress I am facing is the fact that I need to return back to school, DURING A PANDEMIC.
“So many thoughts and questions flood my mind - do we not have a say?
“How do we cope? How will our teachers cope? What will happen if anyone of my peers or teachers contract the virus?”
She cited the death of a teacher, Mr A Solomon, and a pupil, Waydene Priga, last year, saying it has left their school community devastated.
She then offered Ramaphosa a solution, proposing: “Let us redo our year, each and every learner in the education system. Those learners that should have started school in 2021 can just start school a year later then. I’m not saying this will work, but at least consider it.”
The letter went viral on Facebook, attracting 4.9k likes, 2.5k comments and 6.4k shares by Sunday.
On Sunday, Malikah, from Ruyterwacht, said she never expected so many people to react to her letter, and she was also very happy when she received a response from the presidency: “We acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your correspondence addressed to the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa.”
Her parents Laameez and Fa-eez say they are very proud of their bright daughter, who is an avid reader and also a cadet at her school.
Laameez says her daughter is driven, compassionate and goal-orientated: “She joined the cadets in Grade 11 and this has added to her passion and discipline in everything she does.”
Malikah says she was spurred on to write the letter after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that schools would reopen on 1 June.
“I was really worried about my peers, and my family,” she says.
“We do not know where the hotspots are for the virus and many pupils make use of public transport.
“I am always writing essays and letters, I love to read and I hope to become an English teacher.
“I was completely taken aback by the public’s response.
“So many people shared my sentiments and I could not respond to each one. They were worried about their families, like myself.”
On 1 June, matrics and Grade 7 learners are returning to school, while the rest of the grades will return in a phased manner still to be announced.