Impact on education felt

Public schools are scheduled to open on 15 February.
Public schools are scheduled to open on 15 February.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says the marking of 2020 matric exam papers is progressing well.

Last year, the department of Basic Education (DBE) announced that the marking for the matric exams would be completed by Friday 22 January, with results out on Tuesday 23 February.

“The DBE rescheduled the 2020 National Senior Certificate examinations to accommodate the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The June Senior Certificate (SC) examination was postponed and was written together with the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination in November 2020,” explains Millicent Merton, a spokesperson for the WCED.

In August last year, the DBE reassured candidates that the late release of the results would not jeopardise their admission to higher education institutions.

Last week, the University of Cape Town (UCT) confirmed that the later-than-usual release of matric results would not impact matrics’ possible acceptance to tertiary institutions (“Matric results: plan to compensate”, People’s Post, 12 January). UCT explained that applications from prospective first-year students were considered on the basis of their Grade 11 final results and/or September/trial examination results.Action plan for 2020 matrics

However, as South Africa finds itself in the midst of the second wave, the hope shared by many that the new year would usher in a return to normal has faded quickly. This, says Peter Kriel, general manager at The Independent Institute of Education (IIE) – an accredited private higher education provider – has left many matrics without a clear idea of what this year will hold.

He says one of the most important things 2020 matrics can do is to review their plans for the year and ensure they will be able to continue on their chosen path. “Use these coming weeks to make sure that your institution will be able to continue seamlessly in the event of, for instance, another hard lockdown. Ask an institution about their readiness and ability to quickly adapt their offering to a hybrid or online model,” he says.

They should also speak to students who experienced last year’s response. “You need to determine whether students last year were able to continue their learning journey seamlessly, whether they got the support they needed to do so effectively, and whether the learning was adapted in such a way that they continued to be engaged,” Kriel says.

He adds that those matrics who have not yet decided on their plans for the year should consider approaching an institution to talk through their options rather than leaving it too late.Job prospects

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agrees. She says those with the means, the talent, and the inclination, should try and stay in the education system rather than entering the job market straight out of high school.

“This year, the challenges facing job seekers will be the same as last year but worse. That is, too many job seekers, not enough jobs on offer,” Myburgh adds.

She advises that those not in the very top rung of matriculants should consider attempting to qualify in one of the trades such as bricklayers, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, with a view to eventually start their own business.

“There is no substitute for a real skill which is always in demand,” Myburgh adds.

She says of the various career paths out there, skilled programmers and computer technicians have a better chance of employment. “The basic lesson in job seeking is attitude – showing a sunny disposition, a willingness to work hard, and to start at the bottom. Even a series of low-level jobs shows a prospective employer your willingness to work,” Myburgh adds.

Reopening of schoolsAs 2020 matrics weigh their options, a whole new bunch of Grade 12 learners stand ready to take on their final year of secondary schooling. For them the 2021 academic year is already off to an uncertain start as the deputy minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule, announced on Friday 15 January that the Council of Education Ministers in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council and cabinet, had taken the decision to delay the reopening of both public and private schools by two weeks.

Teachers were to start the academic year on Monday 25 January followed by learners on Wednesday 27 January. These dates have now been moved to Monday 1 February for teachers and Monday 15 February for learners.

“The DBE will work closely with all nine provincial education departments to establish the true extent of the impact of the virus, resulting from the unfortunate demise of educators, workers and leaders in the sector, especially during the December and January holidays,” Mhaule said.

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