South Africa’s new 2021 school calendar will come at a big cost

The extended closure of schools in South Africa could have serious long-term ramifications for learners – especially in the earlier grades, says the Department of Education’s director-general Mathanzima Mweli.

In a briefing to parliament on Wednesday (20 January), Mweli said that younger students are particularly at risk of forgetting about skills and knowledge acquired at school if they stop learning for extended periods of time.

“This creates a challenge of ‘accumulated gaps’ as they continue into further grades,” he said.

At the other end of the scale, Mweli said that the department was concerned about the Grade 12 cohort of 2021 which lost significant teaching time as Grade 11 pupils in 2020.

“We have narrowed the curriculum as part of a process known as ‘trimming’ which means that these students were not exposed to the full curriculum. However in matric, they will be examined on the full contents of Grades 10, 11 and 12.

“The further delay of teaching this year places a huge burden on the system as we now not only have to catch up on Grade 12 content but also on the Grade 11 content which was lost last year.”

“It is going to be extremely difficult for the education system to recover the learning losses.”

Last week, the Department of Basic Education announced that government will keep all schools closed in South Africa due to concerns around the country second Covid-19 wave.

In a media briefing on Friday (15 January), Deputy Basic Education minister Reginah Mhaule said that both public and private schools will delay their opening dates by two weeks.

The return date of independnet schools will vary based on their respective calendars. For other schools, the new opening dates are as follows:

  • Teachers will report to schools on Monday, 1 February
  • Learners will return on Monday, 15 February

Mhaule said that support staff will use this additional time to prepare for schools the return of learners. She added that further meetings will take place next week to determine the readiness of schools to reopen.

Read: More countries block flights and travel to and from South Africa

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South Africa’s new 2021 school calendar will come at a big cost