The Department of Basic Education is holding a lekgotla this week to discuss how the country’s schooling sector will recover after two years of pandemic-related disruptions.
In her opening address on Wednesday (26 January), Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga said the sector lost at least 50% of curriculum time due to rotational timetabling and intermittent closures.
“As a government, we are mulling over options to mitigate against losing contact teaching time in 2022 and beyond,” she said.
“We have recommended to the National Coronavirus Command Council to reduce the social distancing measures in our classrooms. The ideal is to have all our learners receiving contact teaching time at the same time to mitigate against dropouts, increase retention rates and prevent failures.”
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. Data from the Western Cape government shows approximately only 12% of its primary schools can comply with current social distancing regulations.
Research shows that learners from disadvantaged communities are also more likely to drop out of the schooling system due to rotational timetabling as they miss out on routines and school services such as feeding schemes and health services, Motshekga said.
She added that a number of short- and medium-term plans for the curriculum and teacher development response are expected to be developed during the lekogtla to help make up for the lost teaching time.
“We need to build a coherent response on the measures to reboot and rebuild the basic education system battered by two years of Covid-19.
“In the end, we must strengthen the basic education ecosystem so that it is future proof against the subsequent pandemics. We do so because basic education is so crucial that there’s evidence it strengthens democracies, improves the nation’s health outcomes and contributes significantly to economic growth.”