KwaZulu Natal (16 July 2021) - At least thirty schools, nine of which are supported by Save the Children, have been damaged in the ongoing violence in South Africa, the child rights organisation said today. At least one school is reported to have been burnt to the ground.
One of the Save the Children supported schools that has been damaged is for children with disabilities, who are already at a higher risk of losing long-term access to education due to COVID-19.
The charity strongly condemns the vandalism of the schools in KwaZulu-Natal province, as reported this week by the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa).
This spike in violence comes just ten days after the Minister for Basic Education announced that 1,718 schools across the country were already undergoing major repairs, following a spike of burglaries and vandalism during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Children in South Africa have had their education disrupted for over a year, and when they are in school, they attend class every other day in over-crowded, under-resourced classrooms. Online schooling remains an impossible challenge, with most children having no access to internet or electronic devices.
According to data from the latest National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), an extra 500,000 children have dropped out of school in South Africa during the pandemic. The group’s researchers found that school dropouts have tripled from pre-pandemic levels of 230,000 to approximately 750,000 in May 2021.
Save the Children is calling on all parties to the violence in South Africa to cease immediately damaging and destroying schools, so that children can return to school once COVID-19 lockdowns are over.
Steve Miller, Save the Children South Africa CEO, said in response to the worsening education situation:
“We are gravely concerned for the future of children in South Africa. In the midst of our turmoil we are forgetting about our children and they are pushed even further behind.”
“The destruction of schools is a direct infringement on children’s right to a basic education, and it further compromises the ability to get children safely back into school. Children with disabilities have also been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, so it is especially grievous that a school supporting them has been damaged.
“We are facing an education emergency. The longer that children are out of school, the greater the risk that they will not return. Without a quality basic education, children are unlikely to escape the cycle of poverty and may never reach their full potential. In the long term this can lead to weakened educational systems, adversely affecting the country’s economic, political and social development. If we do not protect our children today, our future is lost.”