Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga says her department is working on the full return of students to schools, but has continued to face problems around space and social distancing.
In a media briefing on Friday afternoon (8 October), Motshekga said that her department has informed all teachers that they will need to return to schools to help ‘reboot the system’.
However, she noted that her department did not ‘succeed fully’ with the return of primary schools. While around 60% of schools could accommodate the return of learners, Motshekga said that there are space issues in some of the country’s township schools.
She added that preference would initially be given to Grade 10 and Grade 11 students to complete the curriculum and are fully prepared to sit their matric exams in 2022.
The minister noted that the 2021 matric cohort lost a significant amount of teaching time due to the country’s various lockdowns, resulting in little holiday time for students or teachers.
South Africa’s primary schools (Grades R – 7) returned to full-time teaching at the end of July as part of the country’s move to an adjusted level 3 lockdown.
However, high school students have continued to work rotationally, leading to concerns around a loss in learning time.
Under the current rotational system, high schools 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.
During 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.
South Africa’s 2021 matric cohort is set to begin their final exams from 1 November, through to 7 December, with a record 735,677 full-time candidates set to write – an increase of 128,451 students, compared to last year, the minister said.
“This is the Grade 11 Class of 2020, that did not complete their curriculum; but through the sheer hard work and dedication of our teachers, they have been able to cover the entire curriculum of 2021, and that they even had enough time to do revisions.”
Motshekga said that the introduction of remote learning interventions, together with learning camps, has assisted in ensuring the entire curriculum was covered.
“We have consulted with provinces to check on their state of readiness, and provinces have confirmed that it is all system go. In terms of learner support, the Woza Matrics Campaign is available and offers tuition support to Grade 12 learners in ten subjects.
“We urge all our learners to take advantage of the learning and teaching support materials as well as the support availed through the campaign. We also have hundreds of zero-rated platforms on our website.”