Elementary Education Minister Angie Motshekga confirmed on Sunday what progress has been made since schools opened in the Covid-19 area and also provided feedback on returning to school from more grades.
Motshekga said since grade 7 and grade 12 students returned on June 8, 2020, 968 schools had to close and reopen due to Covid-19 cases. This is only about 4% of the total 25,762 private and state schools nationwide. On average, it takes three days to disinfect a school before teaching can resume.
A total of 2 740 teachers from the total teacher corps of 440 000 teachers were affected by the virus. “It represents less than 1% of all teachers. In the same period, 1 260 learners were affected by the virus – that’s 0.01% of our learners, ”Motshekga added.
The highest number of cases was in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
“Unfortunately, we lost 11 teachers and four staff members to death because of Covid-19. Three learners also died due to Covid-19. It is important to mention that these teachers and learners have not yet had a chance to return to school. Our deepest condolences to the families involved. ”
Motshekga said the department is still constrained by Covid-19-related challenges and cannot afford all learners to return at the same time. “We continue to provide continuous support to learners at home through a variety of platforms such as radio, television, online and of course in school. We have 197 websites that have good curriculum content and you can access it, whether you have data or not. ” A list of these websites is available at www.education.gov.za
Vandalism at schools
Almost all provinces are undergoing repairs to 1 718 schools that went through vandals during the isolation period. “It is worrying that the criminals are still wreaking havoc,” Motshekga added.
In Gauteng, 351 schools were targeted and six schools were vandalized in the past week. Robberies have taken place at schools that have been targeted before.
In the North West, three classrooms were damaged this week due to arson.
Orientation at schools
Orientation programs for principals, school management teams, staff and teachers have been developed and deployed to schools. Grade 7 and grade 12 learners also underwent orientation on their first day of school.
Motshekga said provinces are preparing to graduate when grades return on July 6, August 3 and later.
Challenges with space and space at schools
“When Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners returned on June 8, there were no challenges in terms of space and school furniture. But our investigation indicates that many schools will face challenges as soon as more grades return to school. ”
She said almost all schools would have to take a creative approach in terms of timetables and classroom management to make sure that the necessary rules on social distance could be followed.
Schools, among other things, have the option of different grades going to school on different days of the week.
“We are painfully aware that many school days have already been lost and for many grades more school days will be lost. We are encouraged that the updated annual teaching plans have been developed and accepted by provinces and communicated to schools and teachers. In some cases, creative approaches are followed such as training teachers to make use of Microsoft Teams and other virtual options. ”
She added that it is essential for young people to be constructively occupied by the school because the young, especially the most vulnerable, face social challenges such as violence, unplanned pregnancies, substance abuse and numerous other social problems.
Return of grades
The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has determined that only Grade R, Grade 6 and Grade 11 will return to school on July 6, 2020.
The CEM has indicated that provinces that are not yet ready to receive Grade R must submit strategic and effective plans to allow these learners to return to school by the end of July 2020. Provinces that are ready for Grade R learners already from Receive Monday, can continue with that.
“All grade R and pre-grade R learners, who have already returned to school, must stay in school. Schools that adhere to the Health, Safety and Social Distribution Protocol can open for Grade R and Pre-Grade R learners. ”
She said the department continues to work with the national associations responsible for learners with special needs to streamline the return of those learners as well. CEM has also agreed that all grades that form part of the second group can return to school in an orderly step-by-step phase, but no later than the end of July 2020.
Impact of the disruption
Motshekga said it is important to mention that the temporary closure of less than 4% of schools after the school reopened on June 8, 2020, is much better than a large-scale closure over the same or even longer period. “This will mean an unacceptable level of loss of education and food programs for an entire generation of children with a consequent deterioration of social conditions and economic inequalities for the future.
“It has not yet been possible to determine the impact of the current school closures on teaching because no significant assessments of learner performance have been made. The international and local evidence surrounding the typical impact of a loss of education due to disasters, strikes, etc., suggests that losses may be greater than the actual days lost. This is largely because the disruptions have led the learners to forget what they have already learned. ”
A survey will be conducted to gather information on childcare activity, child hunger and access to educational content when children need to stay home and unable to attend school.
“Preliminary (unpublished) results from the first wave of data indicate a significant increase in childhood starvation since the isolation period began. The survey also shows a significant increase in childcare responsibility with an increase in the burden that largely rests on women’s shoulders. The survey also confirms that less than a third of children have accessed educational content through the Internet. Larger numbers of children used books, television and radio. The effectiveness of the last two activities is not clear, but is likely to be much less intensive towards attending school.
“The survey also confirms the usefulness of books and printed materials that learners can take home and use in communities where there are not many resources.
“We will discuss the findings of the survey as soon as the results are released.”
Risk of opening the schools
Motshekga said the department does not yet have any dates or dates for the Covid-19 infections and confirmed cases among teachers and learners in South Africa. “Even less any valid way to attribute transfer to the impact of attending school. So we have to rely on some of the best international studies done and expert epidemiological views. ”
By April 2020, experts’ understanding has shifted from the virus, as a cold-like virus that can be easily spread by children, to the notion that young children are not actually infected by the virus but that they are also very poor transmitters of the virus. virus, Motshekga added.
“This is partly why international bodies have requested schools to re-open their doors and why countries, such as South Africa, have reopened schools fairly quickly. Apart from concerns about health, well-being and protection against problems in society, the impact of reduced education is very clear. The progress and improvement made over the last two decades can be undone as longer children stay out of school.
“However, the epidemiological rationale is not well understood by the public. As a result, many parents and teachers overestimate personal health risks and this can lead to excessive risk avoidance, which is detrimental to teaching. At the same time, the fact that older children and teens are more likely to transmit the virus and that strategies at the primary and secondary levels should be different is not clearly communicated.
“However, in an environment of budget cuts, expanding access to material and preschool education is particularly vulnerable due to the pandemic.”