A national crisis.
Citizens ordered to stay indoors.
Police and security forces patrolling the streets to enforce curfew.
The public and the media decrying government’s irrational restrictions and draconian regulations.
Authoritarian state accused of human rights abuses and brutality.
Disenfranchised people rioting in the streets in protest, and engaging in other acts of public violence and lawlessness.
Students out of school for months on end.
This was the State of Emergency of 1985.
There may be startling similarities with our current National State of Disaster, but make no mistake, this lockdown is a very different struggle.
Thirty-five years ago, the enemy was PW Botha’s apartheid state, today it’s the “invisible enemy”, the Coronavirus.
And Cyril Ramaphosa’s government are the good guys. Well, they’re supposed to be anyway.
Munier had flashbacks of the ‘80s schools boycott this week after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that schools would reopen on 1 June.
No sooner had the minister appeared on national TV than parents started voicing their disapproval, fear and anger.
On Facebook and WhatsApp, petitions popped up, signed by thousands of concerned families who are against the idea of sending their children back to school amid a pandemic.
Parents are naturally worried about the risk of infection among learners and teachers in crowded schools, and the further spread of the deadly virus in the communities.
National and provincial education departments have assured that plans are in place to sanitise classrooms and transport vehicles, and screen learners and teachers each day.
The WCED says in addition to implementing social distancing, they will be handing out hygiene packs to pupils and staff at schools, each consisting of two masks, hand sanitiser and liquid soap, cleaning materials and non-contact digital thermometers.
Schools will be provided with cleaning materials including bleach for disinfecting surfaces.
Motshekga said much of the schools budget - including allocations for building and maintenance - would instead go to equipping schools for the pandemic.
It’s a hell of an operation, with the health and safety of thousands of lives at stake, so good luck to our education officials. Sincerely.
Is it enough to allay the fears of moms and dads? No.
According to a Daily Voice reader poll on Facebook, asking if parents would be willing to send their children to school next month, over 10 000 readers (90%) of a total of 11 200 people polled said they wouldn’t, while only about 1000 readers (10%) said they would.
It’s their kids’ health. Can you blame them?
It doesn’t help either that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said this week that 40 000 South Africans could die from the Coronavirus and related complications by November.
This is according to the Covid-19 Modelling Consortium, a group of scientists advising the government on projections and policy formulation.
40 000. That means between now and November, 39 600 could die.
And government wants to send laaities to school?
You can understand the protest from parents, who have warned leaders not to gamble with their kids’ lives.
In 1985, the slogan of the militant student resistance movement was “Freedom now, education later”.
That year, thousands of youths around the country missed the second half of the academic year.
About half of the Western Cape’s 8000 Standard 10 students didn’t matriculate.
Some repeated the year, while others dropped out of school and went to work.
Those were the sacrifices made in the struggle against “gutter education”.
It was a worthy cause, but then so is the health of our children.
Mind you, back then, there wasn't the option of formal home schooling.
Motshekga offers the following: "If you decide not to school, The South African Schools Act allows you to home-school but you have to register your child as home schooling, you have to give your province the plan so they can supply you with the curriculum and exam plans."
If parents want their child to repeat the grade in 2021, they'll need to apply for it, she added.
Thanks, definitely worth exploring.
So before we start chanting “Survival now, education later”, let’s learn some of the lessons of the Class of ‘85.