Several schools in Pietermaritzburg have officially started the second term through online schooling.
Most private schools in the area were scheduled to return after the Easter holidays on either 14 or 15 March and have resumed school-work while some government schools, based on feedback from the parent community, have also resumed formal schooling via online platforms. The challenge for most of the schools, however, has been pupils’ access to data and equipment.
The KZN MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu praised government schools for taking the initiative to proceed with schooling. “As long as no learner is prejudiced and has access to the same learning platforms, I must praise these government schools for thinking out of the box and taking a lead to ensure education continues,” said Mshengu.
Maritzburg College, Pelham Primary, the Ridge Primary, Merchiston Prep, all in Pietermaritzburg, and several others have been keeping their pupils busy since last week, sending out information via the D6 communicators and social media.
Official schoolwork and lessons have been rolled out via Google classrooms and Microsoft Teams.
Some private schools have extended their already-existing online platforms while others rolled out to the junior sections this week.
St Nicholas Diocesan headmaster Leon Grove said the school was already working online through Google classrooms from earlier in the year and they continued with that at the start of the second term this week.
“Our high school learners are following their normal timetable and teachers are online from the morning until 1 pm to help the learners. The junior school learners were all given activity packs for the second term before school closed.
“It’s just the really little ones that we have to keep busy and online learning doesn’t quite work for them yet,” said Grove.
He said the challenge to them was to keep their content less data intensive.
Duncan Greaves, deputy headmaster and head of academics at Cordwalles Preparatory School, said while the school has been ready for online learning for some time now, they were mindful of limiting the pupils’ use of technology. “The roll-out was smooth thus far — with a few hiccups here and there, as expected. Our older boys in grade 6 and 7 have been familiarised with online learning via their usage of Google and robotics.
“We have kept their online usage to school on our devices as we are mindful of their technology usage. Our staff have, through the years, been on skills development courses focusing on online teaching, so we were pretty well equipped.
“Having said that, it has been a massive undertaking to put the structures in place with everyone working from home. We have had time and support from our parenting community,” said Greaves. He said an important aspect of online schooling for Cordwalles was, however, “the conscious care of the boys’ social development”.
To this end, we are making every effort to ensure normalcy — from having our normal assemblies online, to the class teachers speaking to the boys every morning, and PE lessons,” said Greaves.
The Wykeham Collegiate’s principal Sue Tasker said the school's teachers embraced the challenge of teaching online. “We officially began remote teaching and learning on Wednesday but so far the feedback has been positive. Our younger girls from Grade RRR to Grade 3 have been learning on Seesaw while the older girls from Grade 4 to Grade 12 have been using Microsoft Teams.
“The teachers are also connecting with the girls via video messages, WhatsApps and Zoom chats to make sure everyone is coping and understanding the work. We continue to work our way around data and internet challenges. We are aware that this is a stressful time for many and are offering the girls access to counselling and links to stress relievers like mindfulness sessions,” said Tasker.