The current drought, viewed by some as the worst in 80 years, will most certainly impact learning in beloved South Africa.
While most of the discussion focuses on the impact on the economy, too little is said about the devastation that this unnerving reality will bring to, especially, the country’s rural communities of school-going children and young people.
Water restrictions and the added burden this will place on health-care are worrying possibilities. The onset of the new academic year, in the scorching heat of an unforgiving summer, will also strain concentration in the formal learning environment. School outdoor activities, especially track and field events, will further strain the capacity of schools and communities to maintain a healthy learning environment. It may be prudent to seriously modify the school schedule to avoid a disaster during the first quarter of the academic year.
The biggest fear must surely lay with food security and the potential for unrest will be heightened unless swift relief measures are put in place. The country’s School Principals’ capacity to manage through the first quarter will be stretched as they would seek support to meet learners’ nutritional needs. Reports from around the country give evidence to a deepening crisis that will test the management of learning unlike any other year.
It is very likely also that the drought will bring a renewed focus on what needs to happen at a wide range of junctions to deal with scarcity. Recommendations from some compelling research done not so long ago in the Greater Genadendal region, in the Western Cape, suggested that ‘socio-economic and socio-political types of intervention(s)’ are needed over and above new infrastructure.
It’s not to be discarded that some could make a case, therefore, that our children will in the first quarter of this gruelling summer be at the mercy of those who wield economic and political power as instruments for ulterior- instead of humanitarian benefit.