Basic education minister Angie Motshekga says the education system is currently “breathing through the wound” but postponing the academic year further over fears of Covid-19 is not an option.
Motshekga, who was addressing grade 12 learners at Eletsa Secondary School in Brits in the North West, said closing schools would have “catastrophic” outcomes.
Grade 12s returned to school on Monday after a one-week break. Grade 7s are set to return next week, while other grades are set to reopen on August 24, after closing on July 27.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the break following demands from teacher unions and some parents for schools to be closed during the Covid-19 peak.
‘It’s a disaster’
Motshekga said she anticipates “drama” and “more stress” when all other grades return to school on August 24.
“The problem is going to be space. There won’t be enough space for social distancing when all the other grade come back,” she said.
According to the minister, to manage the challenge of space, schools will implement a rotational timetable that will allow for adequate social distancing in line with health protocols.
“We are going to have to use differentiated timetables which are going to be daily rotations because we can’t all be here at the same time every day,” she said.
Motshekga said this year’s curriculum would be trimmed down to cover only about 70%, with the remaining 30% carried over to 2021 and 2022 if it could not be finished in time.
“For me, it is catastrophic to kids who have no access to reading materials and ICT [information and communications technology] access at home,” she said.
“Since March up to now, they have not been going to school. For me, it’s a disaster. Even when we had trimmed the curriculum, we still won’t be able to claw back what we lost. So it’s a disaster.”
Motshekga said many parents have not taken the option of home-schooling, even though the department has made it available.
However, she also showed empathy to parents who have not been able to home-school, saying she understands that it is not easy.
“We even checked with the home-schooling association and parents didn’t take up home-schooling,” she said.
“Without speaking to parents, my view is that it is also not easy to home-school. You have to register your child and you also have to arrange for assessments. Sometimes parents themselves don’t have the time and capability to monitor the programme. That is why most of them didn’t take it up.”