Push for new school calendar to make up for lost teaching time

The Department of Basic Education says that South Africa’s schools have lost a significant amount of teaching time this year after starting the school year several weeks late in February and several days late in June due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told 702 that the government was now weighing up its options to compensate for this lost teaching time.

Mhlanga said that the five school days lost in June and July due to the latest level 4 lockdown have to be made up, or they will be completely lost, and schools face the possibility of not completing their curriculums.

To address this, Mhlanga said that one proposal would see the October holiday period scrapped to make up for this time.

Under the current 2021 school calendar, government school students are on holiday from 1 October until 11 October. Scrapping this holiday would give students an additional week of teaching time from 4-8 October.

“If we need to recover the five days somewhere, and possibly in October, it was going to be a problem because we are going to be able to recover them anyway.

“We said we need to do away with the holiday in October, and the unions and governing bodies opposed that, but the matter is still on the table.”

Mhlanga said that education unions have opposed this move but that the option remains on the table as consultations continue this week.

He said that the government was still considering formal objections and suggestions from these unions, with an official announcement set to be made soon.

Unhappy unions

Trade union Solidarity says that it is investigating the possibility of litigation against the Department of Basic Education if it moves forward on plans to scrap the October school holidays.

In a letter to Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga, Solidarity said it was opposed to this amendment to the school calendar.

Solidarity said the department’s actions are irrational, and implementing such an amendment is unfair and contrary to the national policy regarding the compilation of school calendars.

“It is the duty of the minister and the DBE to communicate with stakeholders before any decisions are made,” said Johan Botha, deputy general secretary of the professional sector at Solidarity.

“Currently, the DBE is trying to erase traces of unilateral actions by ostensibly consulting after they have already made their intentions clear.

“In addition, they choose to consider only one regulation while several others are disregarded as they are continuing to steamroller ahead with their plans and that at the expense of the wellbeing of both learners and teachers.”

Solidarity claims that the department is in the process of changing the school calendar, which currently consists of four terms, into one of three terms, the last term of which will contain twice the number of weeks.

Solidarity is also of the opinion that the DBE does not take into account its own policy that stipulates that learners and teachers must be given sufficient time to rest.

“The department’s action can be described as nothing but exploitation.

“Teachers are expected to be on duty for 21 consecutive weeks with only a short break in the form of an extended long weekend as a consolation prize. However, this is not consistent with the regulations. This action will negatively impact the performance of teachers and learners alike during the fourth term,” Botha said.

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Push for new school calendar to make up for lost teaching time