'Phased-in resumption of school year workable, but stretching to July excessive'

Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel points out this is still a document in discussion.

Picture: Pixabay.com

The Department of Basic Education has not released an official plan for the re-opening of schools, but a recovery draft plan is in circulation which shows a phased-in resumption of the school year, starting on 6 May.

According to the leaked plan, these are the phases for pupils to return to school:

Grades 12 and 7: May 6

Grades 11 and 6: May 20

Grades 10 and 5: June 3

Grades 9 and 4: June 17

Grades 8 and 3: July 1

Grades 2 and 1: July 8

Grade R: July 15

Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel points out this is still a document in discussion.

He said Naptosa's main concern is the safety of both pupils and teachers, so the trick is to balance school resumption without endangering any lives but not stretching it out for so long that it disadvantages the whole learning year.

As such, Naptosa supports the idea of phasing in, with some reservations.

"Certainly, we understand why the return has to be carefully choreographed; why we can't bring in an entire school at a time.

"It has to do with all the health issues - the cleanliness of the school, the deep cleaning, ensuring we have all the safety procedures in place..." Manuel said.

Manuel says one of Naptosa's main problems with the apparent draft plan is the late re-joining of Grade 1 pupils.

He notes that just like Grades 12 and 9, this is a critical year and these children have "lost the most" of any of the school grades by now.

"Those little darlings can't remember a thing that we did at the beginning of the year - all the attempts at reading, at recognition of numbers etcetera, is lost by now and we desperately need to get them back earlier."

While understanding the need for gaps in restarting the different grades, the organisation is not happy with the suggested three-week gaps gaps between groups returning.

Manuel says stretching the process out for this long is "excessive".

He also discusses other suggestions that have been floated, saying Naptosa is completely opposed to scrapping school holidays altogether because both learners and teachers need a break.

It favours instead a re-organisation of the balance of the school year: "There must be sufficient teaching for assessments to happen. It's not about recovering everything in the year, but it is about recovering what is sufficient to ensure that we can credibly call it a year that has happened. And to ensure that those critical grades like Grade 1, like Grade 9, like Grade 12, would have spent sufficient time for them too to have learned enough so that they can move on to the next phase."

Naptosa's proposal is to divide the remainder of the school year into two terms with an intervening holiday.

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This article first appeared on the Radio702 website.