SOUTH African schools should remain open as far as possible in 2021 with all precautionary mechanisms in place and priority given to early grades if a phased approach is urgently needed.
This is according to Basic Education Department’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, when he unveiled COVID-19 recover plans for schools during a three-day 2021 basic education lekgotla, under the theme, “Equipping Learners With Knowledge And Skills For A Changing World”.
“While 2020 was a very difficult year, the sector is better informed and prepared in 2021, and will build on the experiences and lessons learnt to traverse the challenging path ahead, with close monitoring and support,” said Mweli.
Mweli told the lekgotla that the virus infection rate numbers continue to show that children were less likely to contract the coronavirus than adults.
“Hospitalizations per week have risen with the second wave but numbers for children remain low. For example, around 25 hospitalizations per week for those aged 5 to 9, also 10 to 14. These numbers have barely changed,” said Mweli.
“Attendance rateswere relatively high despite high levels of worry and children are still at substantially lower riskto COVID-19 infections than adults, especially young children.”
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in April 2020, 193 countries had closed schools; by June this number had fallen to 112, and by September 46.
“7.6% of respondents were very worried about learners return to school during pandemic, 58.6% of respondents to a StatsSA online survey conducted in last 2 weeks of June said it was not safe to return to school. Most people’s reason given was health risks to their children,” said Mweli.
He said as part of broader recovery plans, department of basic education would adjust the curriculum in order to manage the loss of teaching time last year.
“The focus will be on the fundamentals in managing curriculum coverage, the management of home learning and distance learning and enhanced ICT integrated teaching and learning,” said Mweli.
He added that the department would prioritize digital resources for teaching and learning, and digital teacher development programs.
South African learners returned to school in February following delays caused by the second wave of the coronavirus.
The catch-up plan by the department is a three-year plan which would also see the sustenance of existing arrangementswith radio and television, and the development of a dedicatededucation channel.
“The department of basic education will integrate the school calendarwith Radio and Television, source more education content and capacity buildingfor teachers and learners,” said Mweli.
Mweli added that the department would address the connectivity issues in rural areas – and add zero-rated platforms carrying education content.
He said the department also intended to have a regular reviewof the Curriculum consistent with the skills and competencies of a changing world.
KEY FOCUS AREAS OF GOVERNMENT’S RECOVERY PLAN’S STRATEGY:
- Sustenance of existing arrangements with Radio and Television
- Development of dedicated education channel
- Integration of school calendar with Radio and Television
- Sourcing of more education content
- Capacity building for teachers and learners
- Financial and technical support
- Development of an online Teacher Development Platform
- Provision of Devices to Teachers and Learners
- Addressing connectivity challenges in rural areas and;
- Zero rating of platforms carrying education content.
(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)