Lockdown: Independent schools turn to online learning

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Some independent schools opened this week, but the majority are due to reopen on 18 January. (Papi Morake, Gallo Images)
Some independent schools opened this week, but the majority are due to reopen on 18 January. (Papi Morake, Gallo Images)
  • Independent schools have welcomed the decision to postpone the reopening of schools. 
  • They say they will use online learning when classes resume next week. 
  • The Basic Education Department says it can't force independent schools to shutdown. 

While independent schools have made a decision to turn to online learning after the opening of schools was postponed, at least one private school in Johannesburg seems to be an outlier.

Helpmekaar College in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, sent a newsletter to parents that all 1 200 boys should report to school on Monday, January 18. 

In the newsletter,  the principal JP van der Merwe said strict Covid-19 protocols will be adhered to and that children who have symptoms should stay home. Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the school has a whole calendar of events planned. 

A concert for Grade 8 pupils has also been planned for Friday, 22 January, and a choir camp for the Saturday and Sunday 23 and 24 January. 

READ | What is the new date for the reopening of schools and when will the 2020 matric results be released?

The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa [Isasa] has called on all schools to cancel extra-curricular activities such as orientation camps and sports tournaments and asked that classes be moved online.

On Friday morning, Basic Education Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule announced that schools will reopen on 15 February because the country is still in the grips of the second wave of Covid-19. 

They were due to open on 27 January. Some independent schools opened this week, but the majority are due to reopen on 18 January. 

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s advisor, Mzwandile Matthews, said they had consulted with independent school bodies on the decision to postpone the opening. "The determination that was made at our consultation from both Naisa [National Alliance of Independent Schools] and Isasa was that they persuade the schools that have already opened to consider following the new protocols.

"They will have not yet reopened and will be persuaded to consider delaying and following the reopening protocols. Unfortunately we can’t instruct them. We hope they will consider closing and reopening as stated…" Matthews said. 

Naisa said it was happy with the decision to postpone the opening. 

Naisa secretary-general Ebrahim Ansur said: "We agree with the decision and we have notified our members to comply although it will have major implications on schools; the health of our children and staff comes first." 

Ansur said, while schools are closed, most of the independent schools registered with them will continue with online lessons. "While schools are closed physically, most of our schools are going to in fact offer the online teaching programmes.

"Those schools that were due to start on 25 January will start kicking in the online programme then," Ansur said.

He said the sector would not want to jeopardise lagging behind the curriculum. Isasa said it would release a statement later on Friday. This week, Isasa said if opening was postponed, it would also move classes online. 

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