Here are the key changes and announcements for schools in South Africa this week

 ·11 Jan 2022

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has launched the 2022 school year, detailing the changes her department has planned for schools in South Africa.

In a media briefing on Tuesday (11 January), Motshekga said the school year would officially begin on Wednesday for the five inland provinces, which will be receiving learners from Grades R to Grade 12. The five provinces include the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the North West.

She said that schools in the four coastal provinces – the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and the Western Cape – will return to school the following Wednesday (19 January).

Below are some of the key issues that parents, students and educators should be aware of ahead of the school year.

Covid-19 protocols and rotational timetables to remain in place 

Despite ongoing concerns around the impact of the Covid-10 pandemic and lost teaching time, Motshekga confirmed that Covid-19 restrictions would remain in place at the country’s schools for 2022 as they were at the end of 2021 – including rotational time-tabling.

“The fact of the matter is that Covid-19 is very much still with us, and we need to continue to work together to fight it. We are exploring possibilities to return schooling to normal, but we need to do so responsibly,” she said.

While many schools returned to full-time teaching in 2021, smaller schools and those with a high number of pupils have had to retain a shift system due to ongoing concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic and potential transmission.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has previously warned that retaining rotational timetables in 2022 could lead to the further loss of teaching time.

“The commission holds that rotational learning has a long-lasting negative impact on learning outcomes for children and, as the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (MAC) advice states, that the harms of learners attending school on a rotational basis – specifically the severe cognitive, nutritional, and psychosocial costs – exceed the benefits of reduced Covid-19 infections from smaller class sizes.”

Motshekga said that her department would only make changes to the current system once the necessary Covid-19 regulations are amended.

Vaccination plans 

The Department of Health met with the Department of Basic Education on Monday to consider a vaccination plan insofar as it affects learners in school, Motshekga said.

“It was agreed that we need to increase the vaccination for everybody eligible. We have agreed to prioritise an advocacy campaign to encourage eligible people, both adults and learners of eligible age, to go get their jabs,” she said.

Motshekga said that ideally, vaccinations should be offered through schools to children over the age of 12. However, she said this is not yet possible as the Department of Health doesn’t have the necessary capacity.

The minister said she was also aware of parental concerns that their children would be vaccinated without their permission, but that this would not be the case and that the department would at all costs aim to work with parents to get their permission.

Motshekga said that the number of educators and other departmental staff who have been vaccinated is estimated to be around 80%.

Curriculum changes 

Motshekga confirmed that her Department is holding consultations around the country’s history curriculum, which was not currently fit for purpose in ‘helping children understand who they are’.

A department-assigned task team has recommended that history be made compulsory in grades 10-12. Motshekga said that a draft curriculum is expected to be ready by mid-2022.

She added that the task team has been consulting historians, archaeologists, linguists, researchers, and academics to get input on the new curriculum.

“The major challenge now, which is a massive exercise, is around the rewriting of history. Even the task team said, ‘you can’t present the current history as it is,’ so it has to be rewritten,” the minister said in October.

Motshekga said the department would also have to find the money for new textbooks, and teachers would need to be retrained.

Matric marks 

In an emailed statement ahead of Motshekga’s briefing, the Department of Basic Education announced that matric exam results would no longer be published publicly on media platforms, in line with the recently introduced Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).

“In order to comply with the provisions of the POPIA, the usual practice of publishing the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results on public platforms (media platforms) will not occur for 2021,” it said.

“As was also the practice in previous years, all learners will be required to obtain their statement of results from the schools they attended. In this way, every learner’s personal information with regards to the outcome of their National Senior Certificate exam will be protected.”

It confirmed that matric results are still scheduled to release on 21 January 2022 and that results would still be available from schools.

Read: 19 new subjects implemented in South Africa’s schools

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