OUR NATION’S YOUTH – VIRTUALLY ZERO INFECTED, BUT 100% AFFECTED. Brad Stern, founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Superiate, shares insight on the effects of COVID-19 on young people

“While the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, may be more detrimental physically to the older generation, the effects of the virus go far deeper than that. For 10 million young people throughout South Africa, it has had other far-reaching ramifications, including a complete disruption of the education system.

“Despite a 0.02 death rate worldwide among people aged 18 and younger, with similar statistics reflected in South Africa’s youth demographic, almost 10 weeks of nationwide lockdown have left many young people at a loose end, lacking direction and motivation. But overall, school principals seem generally hopeful that a return to school could get them back on track.

“Using Superiate’s database of principals, we posed a few pertinent questions to quintile 1-5 principals, as well as independent school leaders, across a random selection of 400 primary and high school institutions from all provinces. And the answers we received were very insightful.

“It’s important to note at this point that 97% of principals surveyed have said that they are confident they will open their schools on 1 June for Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners, with the proposed phased approach to follow.

“At many of these schools, learners are reliant on the school feeding programme. And 82% of the principals who responded believed that the feeding programme will resume as normal when schools reopen.

“So, for the most part, principals seem to be confident that the school feeding programme is successful – and indeed, it is one of the most highly regarded learner feeding systems in the world. Having not been operational for 10 weeks, the resumption of the programme is great news.

“The majority of the principals in the broad sample group also indicated that they are satisfied with the communication they have received from the Department of Basic Education – another positive.

“62% of these schools have already been provided with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and 86% have said they are equipped to test all students on a daily basis for elevated temperatures and other possible COVID-19 symptoms.

“In the event of any learners testing positive for the virus, 93% of the principals and their school governing bodies have formal plans in place for partial or full shutdown of their schools for the safety of other learners and parents.

“The overarching majority (68%) of principals were also confident that their schools would be able to finish the 2020 curriculum. Again, great news if this is truly the case. Overall, despite widespread criticism of our education system, these statistics paint a more positive picture than many might expect.

“As someone who is very familiar with the local schooling landscape through focused youth marketing, I believe that the Department of Education has done its research behind the scenes. As a governing body, it has ‘been there and bought the t-shirt’, and made some educated and critical decisions admirably.

“While they may not have all the answers, the Department has engaged every teachers’ union, every school governing body institution, and has reached out to other countries for advice and constructive criticism. Three cheers to Angie Motshekga and her department.

“Concern among parents is understandably high. But the fact remains, the majority of the country’s poor communities are desperate for the school feeding programme to resume, and it seems every parent at some level ultimately wants their kids to return to the routine they had pre-COVID-19.

“Teachers want to see ‘their’ children again – and not on a Zoom call but in real life. Principals are equally as excited, despite concerns about how lockdown may have affected their learners.

“I truly believe that, when the 8am bell rings for school to start on Monday, we should all be cheering and applauding our heroic principals and teachers. They are essential service providers who are bravely standing up and guiding our nation’s youth through uncharted waters.

“I’m not usually one to quote the mighty Madiba, but I find it fitting, that one of our nation’s greatest teachers said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

“Tata, if I may, I’d like to add that education is the most powerful tool we have to defeat the effects of this virus.”

To find out more about Superiate, visit www.superiate.com.

Article by Brad Stern, CEO – Superiate

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