The opening and reopening of schools in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic: An appraisal from two vantage points


  • Prof J.L. van der Walt North-West University, South Africa
  • Prof I.J. Oosthuizen North-West University, South Africa



COVID-19, Pandemic, Education, Schooling, Ethics, Morality, Societal theory


General legislation as well as legislation specifically regulating education in South Africa is aimed at the protection and advancement of the best interests of children (learners). Developments in the school education sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, which reached the shores of South Africa in March 2020, starkly underscored that not only the interests of the learners were at stake but also those of a variety of other stakeholders such as the parents (-in-organisation), the teachers (-in-organisation), the wider community (civil society) and the state (in the form of, for instance, the Departments of Basic Education and of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs). An examination of the situation in the schooling sector reveals that decisions had to be taken about the opening and reopening of schools in a context of great complexity. This paper examines this complexity from two vantage points, a societal-theoretical and a pedagogical-ethical perspective. The societal-theoretical perspective might help all the role-players to gain a deeper understanding of what their respective roles should be during a crisis: does a situation such as this indeed require a nanny-state (based on the notion of an external locus of control) or should the state allow all those involved to just muddle through the crisis; how should the different role-players interact with one another while confining themselves to their own spheres of competence and respecting those of other parties? The pedagogical-ethical perspective, in turn, might assist the various role-players to understand the ethical dilemmas that tend to surface during a pandemic. The aim of the investigation was to derive guidelines for role-players to find their way through the complexity brought about by a crisis such as a pandemic that seemed to threaten the very fibre of civil life.


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How to Cite

van der Walt, J. (Hannes), & Oosthuizen, I. (2021). The opening and reopening of schools in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic: An appraisal from two vantage points. Perspectives in Education, 39(1), 29-43.