Why basic education dept wants to scrap October school holiday

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Schools are due to go on holiday from 1 October, but the department is proposing it be cancelled.
Schools are due to go on holiday from 1 October, but the department is proposing it be cancelled.
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  • The Department of Basic Education is considering cancelling the October school holiday. 
  • The extra week of learning will be used to make up for school days lost.
  • Schools started late this year and closed earlier than expected in July.  

The Department of Basic Education is considering cancelling the October school holiday to make up for days lost during the Covid-19 disruptions.

"It is the right thing," spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told News24. 

Schools are due to go on holiday from 1 October, but the department is proposing it be cancelled. 

Instead, 4 to 8 October will be used to make up for time lost. 

"Children must be given as much time to learn as possible," he said.

Mhlanga said the alternative would be the prospect of a "lost generation" of people who missed out on vital learning years. 

READ | Covid-19: Cases decline at Northern Cape schools

Unicef said some pupils are between 75 percent and an entire school year behind where they should be, according to the latest statistics. It was attributed to rotational attendance, sporadic school closures, and days off for specific grades, leading to school children losing 54 percent of learning time.

The department is still consulting unions and, if the plan goes ahead to cancel the holiday, the decision will be published in the government gazette. 

In a newsletter, the teachers union, SA Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), expressed its dismay at the decision. 

READ | Reducing physical distancing at primary schools is only a proposal at this stage - govt

It considers the plan "absolutely unacceptable". 

The SAOU said:

The absolute fixation to insist on the normal 200 school days per annum, despite the fact that the world is experiencing an extraordinary period, as a result of the Covid pandemic, makes no sense whatsoever.
 

"Many educators and learners are emotionally drained as a result of the continuous stress due to Covid-19, the continuous risk of infections and the pressure to complete the curriculum," the SAOU said. 

They said the attention-span of pupils, especially younger pupils, is limited. They add that proper rest is needed. 

The SAOU said many families would already have spent money on plans for the holiday, and the holiday industry would suffer even more.

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