Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga believes saving this academic year means saving a whole generation.
Motshekga said this during a #SavingtheClassof2020 live webinar held in collaboration with Primestars, the Mail and Guardian, Youth Start Foundation and other partners on Thursday afternoon.
Motshekga said if this year was not saved, the generation of pupils would be disadvantaged compared to those before them.
She said it was critical for the country to do something radical because experts have warned that the Covid-19 coronavirus impact would last for almost a decade.
Following the return of Grade 7s to school this week and other grades set to follow on August 24, Motshekga said this phasing-in could take for instance three days in between for orientation, among other things.
Motshekga said other grades, except for Grade 12s, would take turns coming to school because only 50 people were allowed to gather under Covid-19 regulations.
The other options for provincial departments included rotating classes and platooning pupils (with some coming in the morning or later in the day). Motshekga said this was done to meet the social distancing regulations.
She said her department was not only responsible for millions of pupils in public schools but also those in the private sector.
Motshekga said they were confident that by the exams period, time lost due to Covid-19 would have been recovered. Her department this week released the combined June and December matric exams calendar. More than 1.1 million pupils are scheduled to sit for these exams.
The public-private partnerships
Motshekga said the National Development Plan, government’s blueprint setting out its vision, requires her department to achieve a target of 450 000 pupils competent in maths and science.
These pupils should enter universities ready for bachelor degree programmes.
This, Motshekga said, would not be achieved by government alone, hence partnering with the private sector was required.
Such partnerships, including with the likes of Primestars, have contributed to the sector.
For instance, Motshekga said the partnership with Primestars started in 2010 and about 300 000 pupils in 1 000 schools had benefitted from different programmes. These include entrepreneurship, career guidance, maths and science.
During the webinar, other private companies pledged to continue working with Motshekga’s department and contribute to the development of pupils in schools.
Primestars managing director Martin Sweet said he believed that schools should be reopened. He said the closure of schools had hit children in poor households the hardest.
Sweet said their programmes such as entrepreneurship, which the department was considering to reintroduce in schools as part of the curriculum, had helped pupils to be creative entrepreneurs who could create jobs in the future.
Already, he said about 700 “little companies” were created in schools last year. He said some of the pupils would be incubated in companies and also receive bursaries.
Enter teacher unions
City Press has seen a snap survey conducted by teacher unions – the SA Democratic Teachers Union, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, the SA Teachers’ Union, the Professional Educators’ Union and the National Teachers’ Union.
The National School Readiness Survey 5 sampled 162 schools on Tuesday (August 11), which found that:
- By June 29, 10% of schools nationally had closed because of Covid-19 cases. By Monday (August 10), 41% had closed;
- Not only had more schools closed because of Covid-19 cases, but the number of days schools had closed had increased;
- Attendance of pupils had been low nationally;
- 12% of schools nationally had more than 11% of teachers absent because of comorbidities;
- There had been an improvement in the delivery of water tanks;
- Only 51% of schools had been able to send work with pupils to be completed at home;
- Only in 40% of these schools had pupils completed more than 50% of this work;
- Of schools that have Grade 12s, 62% were confident that they would have covered the necessary content before the exams start;
- Major challenges faced by schools included dealing with anxiety, exhaustion from the increased administrative and teaching load, and lack of support; and
- Fees were not being paid in 79% of schools that were depended on school fees. In these schools, serious problems of functionality are being experienced which may have long-term consequences for school viability including payments of rates, lights, water and staff salaries.