The government is looking to make several changes at schools in South Africa to make up for lost teaching time, says Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga.
Motshekga told 702 that the biggest problem the education sector currently faces is the social distancing and spacing requirements on students at schools. The department hopes to further reduce these restrictions as the country’s Covid-19 cases subside.
Teachers and learners must be at least one metre apart at schools in line with health and safety protocols. This had previously been revised down from 1.5 metres to accommodate more learners.
While the department initially expected that rural schools would face the most difficulties in returning, Motshekga said that the inverse has actually been the case as the country’s more urban areas and overpopulated schools face a greater challenge with spacing.
The minister said that schools in more rural areas actually faced fewer learning losses during the worst of the pandemic, despite initial concerns about resources, as teachers were better able to assist a smaller cohort of learners.
Motshekga said that her department was hopeful that the following changes will help make up for lost teaching time:
- Revised social distancing requirements, allowing more learners per classroom;
- Mobile classrooms to boost capacity;
- Introducing alternative teaching places that allow for more spacing;
- Hiring more teacher assistants;
- The government no longer allowing teachers to work from home due to co-morbidities;
- More teachers electing to take a Covid-19 vaccine.
Motshekga reiterated that the school calendar will not be changed in October, despite the lost teaching time, following complaints from both parents and teachers.
She said that teachers needed a break after being placed under severe pressure by the rotational timetable. At the same time, some parents had already made holiday plans for the October break period.
In a media briefing on Sunday (29 August), the minister said that lost teaching time would instead have to be recovered on a school or district level, though this must also be “within reason”.
Under the current 2021 school calendar, government school students are on holiday from 1 October until 11 October.
All schools reopened on 26 July as part of the country’s move to an adjusted level 3 lockdown after a month-long level 4 lockdown.
While the education department shifted the June holidays to accommodate the closure, students still lost five teaching days over the period.
It was announced earlier in August that the department had decided to scrap the holidays so that educators could claw back this lost teaching time between 4 and 8 October.
This was met with backlash from teachers’ unions and school governing bodies, which led to a swift withdrawal of the decision, and the department said it was only a proposal.