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COVID-19: Could the school year be lost for SA pupils?

Schools were closed across the country last Wednesday with government tentatively announcing they would re-open after Easter.

FILE: In accordance with the pronouncement by the President on 15 March 2020, schools will be closed from 18 March 2020. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG – South African parents are on Monday being warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could result in the complete loss of the 2020 academic year.

Schools were closed across the country last Wednesday with government tentatively announcing they would re-open after Easter.

However, with 274 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country already, that may not be the case anymore.

Educational specialist Mary Metcalfe said: “I don’t want to cause panic. I think the school year will be lost, but we do need to understand that our curriculum is very tight, very carefully structured and that weeks and months of concepts not learned will have implications for subsequent learning.”

She said this may have an effect on teaching methods.

“If the school year is lost, what does that mean for the work of teachers in assisting learners to catch up on what should have been learned and understood this year so that we can still proceed towards our external assessments.”

Below is an extract from the statement by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, at the media briefing last week:

ON THE CLOSING OF SCHOOLS

In accordance with the pronouncement by the President on 15 March 2020, schools will be closed from 18 March 2020.

As a sector, we have determined that schools should resume on 14 April 2020; unless determined differently. If that happens,we will communicate with parents. We are going to lose 10 school days as a result of the school closures.

To compensate for lost days, the June holidays will be cut short by a week. Once opened, schools will be encouraged to extend tuition hours.

It must be noted that this directive affects all schools; public ordinary schools, independent schools and private. The technical aspects of these measures will be addressed by the concerned parties. Let’s keep in mind that the President has declared a national disaster which means that we are operating under extra ordinary conditions.

RECOVERY PLANS

The CEM meeting agreed on a number of steps that must be taken to ensure that education is not compromised.

Each province, district, circuit and school must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented. As things stand right now and based on expert advice, we should be able to manage coronavirus such that the negative impact on schooling is minimised.

All mass events of more than 100 people scheduled for March and April will be postponed or cancelled with immediate effect. The activities include the South African School Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE), all school sports programmes and of course assemblies.

We will intensify the Read to Lead campaign with our partners to ensure that it is used to assist learners and parents alike to get involved in literacy initiatives. We urge schools to give learners work they can do at home with the supervision of parents. Schools are encouraged to give learners workbooks and worksheets to be used to keep learners active on curriculum-based initiatives.

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