A teacher faces a packed classroom. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
A teacher faces a packed classroom. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

SA is among countries most apprehensive about sending children back to school amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a poll by market research company Ipsos has found.

The survey, released on Wednesday, revealed that only 20% of respondents in the country are comfortable allowing children to return to school, 56% said they are not comfortable, and 24% said they definitely would not do it in the next few weeks.

This as another online survey of teacher unions released this week showed that a majority of schools lack proper mechanisms to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, raising fears that both students and teachers could be exposed to the coronavirus when schools reopen.

The coronavirus has infected more than 19,000 and killed more than 365 in SA.

The Ipsos survey was conducted online from May 7-10 with 16,000 adults aged 18-74 in Canada and the US; and 16-74 in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, SA, South Korea and the UK.

Ipsos said the sample for the study was about 1,000 people in each country.

The market research company released the survey a day after basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday that schools across SA will open on June 1 in a phased manner, starting with grades 7 and 12. Teachers will return to schools on May 25.

Motshekga, however, was criticised for saying she “cannot guarantee” that every pupil will be safe from contracting the coronavirus when schools reopen. The minister stressed that no parent would be forced to send their child back to school during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said a revised school calendar, setting out new term dates, will be published in the Government Gazette shortly.

According to the Ipsos survey, South Africans are not alone in feeling apprehensive about sending children back to school or resuming their normal working routine during the pandemic.

The majority of respondents in Italy and SA (56%), followed by Canada and Spain (53%), said they are not comfortable with sending children back to school in the coming weeks. People in Brazil are the most against children returning to school, according to the survey, with more than two in five respondents (44%) saying they definitely wouldn’t do it, followed by Japan (30%), and the US (28%).

With regards to going back to their jobs, the Ipsos poll showed that 82% of people in South Korea, 71% in Australia, 63% in Russia, 56% in China, and 58% in Germany are at the top of the list of those saying they are comfortable returning to work.

In SA, 47% of respondents said they are comfortable going back to the workplace, while 44% said they are not.

On May 1, SA downgraded from a level 5 to a level 4 lockdown, allowing for about 1.5-million people in some sectors, including mining, manufacturing and agriculture, to resume operations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced that the country will move to level 3 at the end of May to ease the impact on SA and to allow more economic activity.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za