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Statement on Gender-Based Violence – Diocese of False Bay

In a powerful statement on gender-based violence (GBV), Bishop Margaret Vertue and Canon Cheryl Uren declare:

“We have to first undo, then to build. We need to capture the hearts, souls and minds of the people, this must become the dominant thought, the hegemony of our day: the safe-keeping of women and children. It can never be an issue amidst other issues.”

Read the full text of the 5/6-page statement:

In English >>

In isiXhosa >>

In Afrikaans >>

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Schools are good for children NOW

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s response to the Department of Basic Education’s announcement on Sunday 31 May 2020, that the planned reopening of schools on 1 June is to be postponed.

When the Minister of Basic Education announced that schools in South Africa were to be reopened on 1 June 2020, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa on 19 May, welcomed her decision and urged all stakeholders to put the interests of the country and its children ahead of their own, for the time being.

We are living in a formally declared National Disaster and we all need to act in light of that.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, at the time of the Minister’s mid-May announcement, lent its support to the call from Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi for all countries to prioritise the good of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course the Church supports the call for the country’s schools to be made safe, as indeed we have supported efforts to supply water and safe toilets to all schools for many years.

However in South Africa, children who are not at school do not vanish into thin air; thousands of them are left wandering the streets, unprotected and unsupervised by parents who may be absent at work or otherwise. South Africa’s children are safest in the care of educators. Out of school they are exposed to all kinds of infection, abuse and accident.

The guidance of independent bodies like the Paediatric Association of South Africa in this regard should be heeded.

Bringing the nation’s children back into school is not a casual matter, a political football or a ho-hum. It is a pressing moral imperative, a duty of care, an educational priority and practically critical.

As the Minister observed in May, many children especially from poorer backgrounds who became disconnected from school during the 2010 strike never reconnected with the educational process; those young citizens, and the country, were the losers. It would be all too easy to commit that mistake again if we do not, as a country, bend our best efforts to the urgent readmission of our children to their schools. That has implications for all stakeholders who should now be doing all they can to co-operate, develop common plans, and work actively to fulfil them – even if this means going beyond their prescribed minimum obligations as officials or employees.

We must all work to prevent a crisis becoming a disaster.

Provision for home schooling during the lockdown has been partial, difficult to access, inequitable, and increasingly stressful for families who are emerging from lockdown into work and legitimately expecting society to provide a safe place for their children.

The emotional damage of constant chopping and changing of public plans, especially to children who are excited to return to school and to their friends, is significant.

Minister Motshekga’s apology today is appropriate and we accept it; but the confusion and miscommunication of the past few days is unfair to our children and unworthy of our democracy. It suggests that the overwhelming priority of caring for the children of our society is not pressing with sufficient force on the minds and hearts of the parties to this process.

The work required of education departments nationally and provincially is clear and urgent.

Likewise, the moral priority upon our educators is to bring our children into the care of schools as soon as possible and to bend every effort to care for and educate them.

We are living in a National Disaster. This means that all of us, government officials, educators, principals, parents and citizens should be working side by side, not wasting effort on squabbling, point-scoring, or defending ourselves. It is scandalous that debates over procurement should prejudice the children’s welfare.

We should all assist wherever we can to ensure the safe and urgent reopening of all our schools to accommodate the young of this country who must not be left at a loose end any longer. If that means lending a hand with deliveries, cleaning, or helping children to manage their lives in these strange times, so be it. We are above all citizens, adults with a new generation to care for, not rivals competing to make gain from a messy situation.

In our Church we offer our support to Anglican schools and urge our Bishops to visit and encourage our schools wherever they are located in their dioceses, and we urge the Church at large to find ways of lending support to public schools in their vicinity in whatever ways they can.

We urge –

– That no further delay in reopening is permitted beyond 8 June 2020

– That outstanding work to enable schools to open is undertaken urgently across the country

– That any school which is ready to reopen, and meets the criteria, be allowed to do so without delay

– That children in additional grades other than Grades 7 and 12, especially those in the Foundation Phase, should be readmitted as soon as possible, subject to the necessary health protocols but on a flexible timetable aimed at drawing all children into the protection of the school environment as quickly as possible

– That school feeding schemes open immediately and serve any child registered at any school in a quintile where such schemes operate, utilising the budget, facilities and personnel already in place for the purpose; even before such children are permitted to re-enter classrooms

– That all social partners set aside their own agendas and join hands to fulfil the goal set by Nobel Laureate Kailash Sathyarti, of prioritising the wellbeing of children globally through the current pandemic.

We cannot risk another lost generation.

Issued by the Anglican Board of Education in Southern Africa

Bishop Emeritus Peter Lee, Chairperson