It’s back to school for some

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) offices and phone lines have been abuzz with worried parents whose children have not yet been placed into schools, and for those who have been placed, barriers in enrolling into the schools continue. While some parents applied online last year, they are awaiting placement of their children in a school. Others are restricted by registration and stationery fees to allow a child to start school. This is something which schools are not supposed to do. As a result, the immediately releasable right to access basic education is becoming a dream for some.

The ‘back-to-school’ hype seems to be tainted this year as learners, parents and teachers emerge from a chaotic two years of school during a pandemic, and the uncertainty of 2022 is looming. Public schools will resume on a rotational timetable in an attempt to curb the risk of COVID-19 infections. However, the compounding effects of this on teaching time and learner participation were seen last year in the increased number of learner drop-outs. To reduce the impact of these consequences, it is critical that children are placed in schools quickly to prevent further negative effects on their education. However, this is not just COVID-19. It’s déjà vu.

It’s déjà vu—the same as last year and the year before. JRS clients struggle to place their children. Thousands of children across the province have uniforms and stationery and no school to go to. It’s no surprise. The Department of Basic Education needs to ensure that their planning and intervention deal with the systemic infrastructure failures and budgetary issues that are not new. 

As our roads and neighbourhoods fill with children and teachers making their way to school each morning, let’s hold a moment for each of them:

  • For the grade ones entering a new world overwhelmed by the newness of spaces and people unknown, may they know safety and fun. 
  • For the matriculants who feel the surmounting pressure of their final year, may they find calm and focus. 
  • For those between the beginning and the end of their schooling, may they find curiosity. 
  • For teachers, as they continue to work in constrained and changing environments, may they find adaptability and purpose. 
  • For parents, who feel the intensity of care-work, may they find support and gentleness. 
  • For children who are not at school, may they find provision. 
  • For those in leadership, may the future of children shake you from complacency.
Abigail Dawson

Abigail Dawson holds a Masters in Development Studies, Sociology, from the University of Witwatersrand. Her activist and academic interests have focused on migration in a South African context. She is a qualified social worker and has provided counselling for migrant women and children. She hopes to bring change to the current public and global narrative on migration through effective and creative communication, networking and advocacy to ensure equitable communities for all people living in South Africa.
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