Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga says that it not yet possible to measure the impact of the current school closures on learning, since no significant assessments of learner performance have been done.
However, the international and local evidence around the typical impact of losing school time, due to disasters, strikes, etc, suggests strongly that learning losses may well be greater than what is suggested by actual days lost, she said in a media briefing on Sunday (6 July).
This is in large part because disruptions result in learners forgetting some of what was previously learnt, she said.
As part of the government’s return to school plans, Motshekga said that almost all schools will now have to introduce new timetable systems to accommodate the return of additional learners.
“When the Grade 17 and 12 learners returned to school on 8 June, we did not have challenges related to spacing and school furniture.
“However, our monitoring of schools, has indicated that many schools may have spacing challenges once more Grades return to school, she said.
“Almost all schools are going to have to adopt innovative approaches with respect to timetabling and classroom management, in order to ensure that all children can return to school; while at the same time, maintaining the necessary social distancing measures.”
Motshekga said that options, such as platooning, rotating different Grades coming to school on particular days of the week, and other innovative approaches will be considered.
Most provinces are inclined to favour the rotational option, rather than the platoon option, she said.
Under a rotational option schools would adopt a bi-weekly rotational system where 50% of total learners in the school would attend in one week based on their grade.
The learners that did not attend school in the first week would then attend school in week 2.
An alternative proposal would see students go to school every other day based on their grade.
In a parliamentary presentation on Tuesday (30 June), spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education Elijah Mhlanga said that the third proposal, known as ‘platooning’, would see all students go to school every day, but alternating between a morning (session 1) and an afternoon session (session 2).
Mhlanga said his department was considering a hybrid-model which will use all three models as well as retaining the current timetable model.
This means that there would effectively be five different timetable options which could be introduced across the country’s schools.
Mhlanga added that these models are being used by other countries as part of their fight against the coronavirus pandemic and is the only way to adhere to health, safety and social-distancing requirements.