‘Break won’t help’

Empty school desks.
Empty school desks.
Duncan Alfreds, News24

The decision by government to close public schools — with Grade 12s taking a one-week break and Grade 7s two weeks — has received mixed reactions.

It makes no difference to the spread of Covid-19 at schools, said Prof Labby Ramrathan, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education.

If the school year is extended by a few months, it will not be enough to cover the entire curriculum.

Ramrathan is of the view that the curriculum should be reviewed. “The focus should be on what pupils need to learn,” he added.

“What we have to do is live and adapt to a changing environment and disruptions.”

He recommends that in a two-week period, each grade should come to school for one day so a learning programme can be presented to pupils and advice on how they can manage.

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union said the break is needed to work with the Education Department to create a safe working and learning environment, and used to fix the problems which were putting the lives of teachers, education support personnel and pupils at risk. “We have to engage with the department on the issues of curriculum adjustment and not talk about failing pupils. Schools must be given the flexibility in terms of the adjusted curriculum and assessment.”

For Naptosa, the decision has left more questions than answers, said its provincial CEO Thirona Moodley. Of Grade 12s having to return after a week, she said: “Our question is, are these pupils and teachers not exposed to risk. We are not sure why the Grade 7s must go back either.”

Grade 9s should be prioritised as they will have to choose subject packages next year, she said.

She said it is also not understood how the nutrition program will continue and how the academic year will extend into 2020.

Anthea Cereseto, CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, said children would be better served if schools remain open — if they can do so safely.

Since Covid-19 is going to be around for a while, it is unhelpful to halt children’s learning and the other benefits of them being at school until all danger, or even the peak, has passed.

“After this break, there can be no further delays in returning all grades to school,” she added.

As for independent schools, they will continue operating as they have been.

Mandla Mthembu, chairperson of the National Alliance of Independent School Associations, said more grades have been phased in.

Independent schools can use their own discretion given their circumstances. However, closing is not mandatory for them.

 

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