Basic education department director-general Matanzima Mweli said on Friday that public schools are being temporarily closed because of rocketing coronavirus infections and pupils being psychologically and emotionally stressed by the pandemic.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening announced the closure of public schools for four weeks.
During an interview on radio 702 on Friday, Mweli said the decision to shut schools had been a “delicate” balancing act. “There are increased infections in communities. Gauteng is skyrocketing. Schools are the closest institutions to communities,” he said.
“When infections are increasing in communities, they are likely to have a spillover effect into schools.”
He said schools were a microcosm of society and “if a member of your family is affected, tests positive or passes on, it affects you psychologically and emotionally”.
“We think in schools there is increased psychological and emotional stress.”
The stress affecting pupils was acknowledged by the department, he said.
Mweli said the one-week break offered to matric pupils was enough to ensure they were psychologically and emotionally supported.
Times Select reported on July 16 how teachers were also experiencing feelings of distress, confusion, anxiety and helplessness.
Prof Lesley Wood, from North West University’s education faculty, said besides the fear of infection, “a lot of work needs to be caught up that has been missed. This puts more pressure on teachers and causes feelings of frustration and demoralisation”.
Parents have also come under strain, with many grappling with home schooling during the lockdown.