Basic education dept aims to improve ICT in schools to get curriculum completed

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Deputy Minister of Education Reginah Mhaule. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images)
Deputy Minister of Education Reginah Mhaule. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images)
  • The Department of Basic Education wants to use technology to ensure pupils don't miss out on school work. 
  • Most public schools didn't complete the curriculum last year because of Covid-19.
  • The department wants to improve access for rural schools.

The Department of Basic Education says it will use technology to ensure that pupils don't lose out on schooling this year.

Last year, schools were closed for months and most public schools did not complete the curriculum. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said at the time that it would take three years to catch up.

Motshekga's advisor, Mzwandile Matthews, said they were working on improving access to online learning to ensure pupils could complete the curriculum. 

"We are working very hard to improve on e-learning. We want to appreciate all the stakeholders who are helping us to make e-learning a success. We still have difficulties in rural areas where we have a challenge of connectivity but we are working with all service providers to improve on ICT. It shows that moving forward, that's the way to go," Matthews said. 

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He said in the 2020 academic year, in areas where online learning was not available, parents were given the choice to collect work from schools which children could complete at home before returning it for assessment.

"That process should not be changed. One area that the health minister's advisory committee said was that we should discourage is platooning. They picked up challenges, in terms of infections, with platooning. It's a matter the sector will look into," Matthews said.

Platooning is when pupils go to school every day, but alternate between morning and afternoon sessions.

Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule said ICT programmes were running "in many of our schools".  

"What we want to do is strengthen ICT. We want to take ICT to even the rural areas where there is no network. That's what's being done. [What] we want [is] that when teachers are at home, they are able to communicate with learners. 

"We have teachers with comorbidities. We want them to be able to work from home, even in deep rural areas. If they are not able to work from home, it puts a strain on teachers who are at school. We are putting systems in place to improve that." 

Earlier on Friday, Mhaule said the reopening of schools in 2021 would no longer take place on 25 January for teachers and 27 January for pupils, as previously stated. The opening has been delayed by two weeks.

She said this decision came after consultations with education stakeholders, including teacher unions, school governing bodies and independent schools' associations, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), Cabinet and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) who all decided to delay the reopening, especially since the new variant of the virus in South Africa was said to affect young people.

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Making the announcement during a media briefing in Pretoria on Friday, Mhaule said the decision was taken to give relief to the health system, which is already not coping due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

During a question and answer session at the briefing, Matthews said they could not force independent schools to follow suit but urged them to. 

"The determination that was made at our consultation from both Naisa (the National Alliance of Independent School Associations) and  Isasa (Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa) 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 by the deputy minister."

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