After stakeholders had raised concerns about schools reopening amidst the current second wave, the Basic Education Department decided to delay the reopening of schools by two weeks. Bloemfontein Courant sat down with a psychologist and a few parents to hear their take on this decision and the impact that it has on learners.
A parent, Cathy de Lange, said her three girls are starting Gr R, Gr 5 and Gr 8 this year. They were disappointed to hear about the extension. As a mom she is in two minds about it. “On the one hand, I obviously want to protect them as much as possible and that means keeping them at home. On the other hand, they really miss the interaction with friends and teachers, and even the schoolwork itself.”
Revonne Dreyer said both her children have autism and distance learning is simply not effective for special needs children. Special needs children require specialised education with teachers who have years of experience to assist these children. “My three-year-old son could count from 1 to 10 before the lockdown. Now he does not count at all or sometimes just from 1 to 3. It is very sad and disheartening for us as parents to see how our children are suffering.”
Another parent, Sunet Grundlingh, told the publication that they have mixed emotions and were very disappointed when they heard the news. “My one daughter is in grade 7 this year and the other in grade 1.” She said they managed to get her eldest daughter a home tutor online and have started to do revision on last year’s work. “My worry is the emotional impact that this will have on learners, because the stress they would normally have, has now doubled.” She explained that she has always been someone who plans ahead and Covid-19 has now made this difficult. They are, however, now are taking it one day at a time.
According to Bloemfontein psychologist, Este Pistorius, there has definitely been a huge increase in mental health problems in children, especially anxiety. The uncertainty, together with the constant change of plans at the moment, is the greatest leading factor of anxiety in children.
Pistorius said too much exposure to the media, talks about Covid-19, and death, are anxiety-inducing. Her advice to parents is to create a calm and stable environment at home, as well as fun-activities.