Changes for schools in South Africa to be based on new lockdown restrictions

The Department of Basic Education has several proposed changes for the full resumption of schooling in South Africa, but will rely on an announcement from president Cyril Ramaphosa before deciding on what it can and can’t do.

In response to queries from BusinessTech, Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said that the department had received ‘pre-approval’ for the full return of high school students over two months ago.

However, he said that there is no official date for the full return of students, as any changes to lockdown rules would have to be made in line with what the president announces in the coming days.

Once clarity has been given on issues such as gatherings, the Basic Education department will table its own proposals, he said.

All government schools reopened on 26 July as part of the country’s move to an adjusted level 3 lockdown. At the same time, the basic education department also instructed primary schools (Grades R – 7) to prepare for the return of full-time teaching.

However, the country’s high school students have continued to work rotationally, leading to concerns around a loss in learning time.

Under the current rotational system, high schools in South Africa operate under one of three systems. Students are either expected to attend school physically every second day, every second week or once a day in a morning or afternoon slot.

In the downtime, students are expected to complete assigned work to make sure they don’t fall behind the curriculum. A number of schools have also incorporated online and digital learning platforms for students. Primary school students have returned to school full-time.

The Department of Basic Education has developed a three-year recovery plan to help make up for teaching time lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, said minister Angie Motshekga.

Motshekga said that the Recovery Annual Teaching Plan accounts for each subject in each grade and will help teachers focus on key concepts, content, and skills to be taught per subject over the next three years.

“The curriculum statement for each grade and subject was evaluated by a panel of curriculum content experts, and the content was reduced to ensure that only the core concepts, knowledge and skills are taught for each subject and grade.

“It is anticipated that over the next three years, learners would have covered the core content in the subject, and the curriculum statement, post the three year period, would be reviewed to take learners forward in their learning process,” she said.

Motshekga said that the three-year recovery period is tentative at this stage and could be extended if necessary based on the findings from the continuous research, monitoring and support provided by the department to schools.

Move to level 2 lockdown 

Ramaphosa will address the nation on South Africa’s expected move to a level 2 lockdown in the coming days.

Larger public gatherings are likely to be permitted, making it easier for political parties to campaign for upcoming municipal elections, Bloomberg reported, citing two people with knowledge of the deliberations within government.

It said that alcohol trading hours are set to be extended, and an evening curfew will likely be shortened.

The National Coronavirus Command Council met on Tuesday to assess the regulations. President Ramaphosa will discuss planned changes with officials from religious groups, political parties and civil rights groups ahead of an address to the nation in the coming days, when he is expected to move the country to virus alert level two.

Read: Government to introduce new digital Covid-19 certificate for South Africa – what you should know

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Changes for schools in South Africa to be based on new lockdown restrictions