OPINION| Western Cape education MEC: 'Schools could be closed for a longer period than announced'

"Schools are closed, but learning is open." Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer. (Netwerk24, file)
"Schools are closed, but learning is open." Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer. (Netwerk24, file)

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the closure of schools for a four-week period in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, parents have been understandably concerned as to what impact this will have on the education of their children.

During this lockdown of 21 days, it is essential that we limit our contact with others as much as possible.

This may seem like an extreme measure, but it is very necessary if we are going to successfully flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections and the spread of the coronavirus.

We must also be prepared for the possibility that schools could be closed for a longer period than that announced by the President.

This means that children will need to keep working on their studies while under the care of parents at home, instead of at school.

Schools are now on holiday, so they are not missing out on lessons at present, but we need to prepare for this possibility, to ensure that ou­r children's education for this year is not compromised. 

'It is absolutely understandable to be daunted'

First and foremost, it is absolutely understandable to be daunted and overwhelmed by this prospect! 

As a parent of (now grown-up) twin daughters myself, I know that having your children at home during school holidays is hard enough on its own, never mind having them at home during a government-mandated school closure when they should be in class, and you are expected to continue working from home. 

Our teachers are incredibly dedicated, attentive and qualified individuals – we appreciate their work now even more than usual.

Parents are not expected to replace them. What they will need to do is the best they possibly can to keep their children learning during the lockdown.

We do not expect parents to do it all on their own

The WCED is working tirelessly to put together a programme for quality learning at home, including online resources, broadcast lessons, activities, and reading material.

We'll be communicating these to schools, teachers and parents very soon.

A number of organisations have also made their resources available, and we will also refer parents to as many as we can. I am happy to hear that teachers and parents are already working out creative ways to keep children engaged during this time. 

Secondly, one very important thing parents can do right now, for free, is read to their children if they cannot yet read, and with them, if they already can.

Literacy is the fundamental building block necessary for all other learning, and we urgently need to improve our literacy rates in this country. Without the ability to read for meaning, children will forever be catching up.

If parents can inspire in their child a love of reading over this lockdown period, they will have made a tremendous and valuable investment in their education.  

'A tough learning curve for all of us'

Finally, we encourage parents to talk to their children about this lockdown and what it means, as well as why it is necessary. They are likely to be as scared as we adults are, and they need reassurance.

Please continue to highlight the importance of the preventative hygiene measures – washing their hands, covering their cough or sneeze with their arm, and keeping 1.5m away from others when they absolutely have to go out somewhere (which should be kept to a minimum).  

It's going to be a tough learning curve for all of us as we face this global pandemic disaster. So I would like to share some thoughts with you about this.

Our attitude is going to determine whether we learn from it or not.

I hope that parents and caregivers will be able to see this as an opportunity to engage with their child's education, and to share their wonder as they learn new things.

The views expressed don't necessarily reflect that of Parent24 or Media24. 

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