The national education department, trade unions, school governing bodies and community organizations in South Africa have been bickering over the reopening of schools in recent weeks. It is now becoming increasingly clear that young children play a very limited role in the spread of the coronavirus. The question may even be asked if it was the right choice in several countries to close schools for two months.
The minister of primary education is expected to address the country on Sunday afternoon about reopening schools on Monday, June 8.
At the beginning of April, more than 40% of the world’s school-going learners were at home due to containment measures. “The impact of this on children’s physical and emotional health will certainly be researched, but it is already clear that the closure of schools has had enormous economic consequences worldwide, with parents unable to return to work while smaller children in particular having to stay home, ”Says Jaco Kleynhans, Solidarity’s head of international liaison.
In Italy, it was found that children experienced severe weight gain during the restriction. In some US states, the same has already been reported. “A possible reason is that children practice sports through schools and the loss of this physical exercise for up to 15 weeks may have had an impact on the physical health of children,” Kleynhans says.
In Germany, authorities have indicated that they are also concerned about the emotional well-being of children, especially because of concerns about postponed exams and the loss of class time. In addition, restriction measures have denied millions of children access to nutrition schemes and social services.
No link between reopening of schools and distribution of Covid-19
With the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, several countries soon closed schools for fear that the virus could easily spread through schools.
Denmark was the first country in Europe where schools were closed. However, this country reopened kindergarten and primary schools in mid-April. Shortly thereafter, Austria, Norway, Hungary and other European countries followed. In none of these countries could any evidence be found that the spread of the virus was increased by reopening schools. In fact, the spread of the virus in all these countries has decreased since the opening of schools.
In Sweden, schools for all children under 16 are never closed. Although there are no proper data on the prevalence of the coronavirus among schoolchildren in Sweden, so far no cases have been found where the virus has spread in a school.
However, there are also countries where thorough research has been done on this. In Australia, the National Center for Immunity Research studied 15 schools in the state of New South Wales from March to mid-April for the spread of the virus. According to the data released by the center, nine staff members and nine learners in the 15 schools had Covid-19 among members. They were in contact with 735 fellow learners and 128 teachers and other staff. According to the research, they did not infect a single person with the virus. One primary school pupil and one high school pupil did contract the virus during the study, but it was not possible to determine whether they contracted the virus inside or outside the school.
Thorough research into this has also been done in Italy, Iceland and China, where the data sets prove time and time again that few children contract the coronavirus. Those who do get it show mainly mild symptoms and the transmission of the virus from a child to any other person almost never occurs.
However, the best research to date has been published in Dutch Journal of Medicine this week . A study conducted by the Dutch National Institute of Health (RIVM) revealed that children under the age of 12 have almost no role in the transmission of the coronavirus. The results, published in the medical journal, monitored the disease in 54 families with 227 children. While some children are infected, almost no transfer has been made from one child to another. According to the study, the virus is transmitted mainly between adults.
“The problem with schools being closed is that parents with smaller children can then find it difficult to go to work,” Kleynhans says. Restriction measures around the world that also prevented people from having their children cared for by a nanny worsened the problem. This is true, while almost all research done so far proves that it is precisely the youngest children who are not at risk for the spread of the virus.
Kleynhans says the biggest economic damage has already been done and many countries will probably still wish they had not closed schools for so long. “However, it is now time for the right thing to be done and for all schools, and especially kindergarten and primary schools, to be reopened immediately so that parents can return to their work and children again experience all the physical, emotional and other benefits of schooling. . “
He says South Africans need to begin to calm down and realize that the benefits that children receive at schools are greater than the almost negligible risk of the coronavirus for smaller children.