Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education says it is satisfied with the overall preparedness of the Gauteng Department of Education to begin the 2021 academic year.
The committee is currently visiting a number of provinces to assess the country’s schools ahead of the planned opening date of 15 February.
While the committee said it is generally satisfied with preparedness, it has raised concerns around support material, learner placements and lost teaching time.
“Regarding catch-up plans, the committee welcomes the intention to hold extra-curricula classes to ensure that learners are adequately prepared for examinations,” it said.
“The committee also welcomes the plans for additional support to teachers in relation to learning and assessment guidelines to support teachers in the implementation of the recovery plan.”
The committee also called on the department to ensure that schools have replacement teachers so that teaching and learning continues in those cases where teachers are unavailable due to increased risk caused by co-morbidities.
It also emphasised the need to strengthen psycho-social support to teachers and learners during this difficult time.
Education experts have already warned that the delayed 2021 school calendar, in combination with lost teaching time in 2020, is likely to have a significant impact on South African students.
In a briefing to parliament on 20 January, the Department of Education’s director-general Mathanzima Mweli said that younger students are particularly at risk of forgetting about skills and knowledge acquired at school if they stop learning for extended periods of time.
“This creates a challenge of ‘accumulated gaps’ as they continue into further grades,” he said.
At the other end of the scale, Mweli said that the department was concerned about the Grade 12 cohort of 2021, who lost significant teaching time as Grade 11 pupils in 2020.
“We have narrowed the curriculum as part of a process known as ‘trimming’ which means that these students were not exposed to the full curriculum. However, in matric, they will be examined on the full contents of Grades 10, 11 and 12.
“The further delay of teaching this year places a huge burden on the system as we now not only have to catch up on Grade 12 content but also on the Grade 11 content which was lost last year.”
“It is going to be extremely difficult for the education system to recover the learning losses.”