Basic education minister Angie Motshekga says there are no plans to scrap the October school holidays as had previously been discussed, but the loss of teaching time remains a concern.
Speaking to parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education on Tuesday (24 August), Motshekga said that previous communication from the department was that teaching time had been lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic and that this time needed to be recovered.
However, she said this would be found “within the remaining days,” and not by scrapping holidays, TimesLive reported.
Earlier in August, basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said that the department was holding talks with partners to cancel the October holiday, giving additional teaching time between 4 – 8 October.
However, basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli said that this was only a recommendation that had been made and that a final decision on the matter had not yet been taken.
All schools reopened on 26 July as part of the country’s move to an adjusted level 3 lockdown after a month-long level 4 lockdown. While the education department shifted the June holidays to accommodate the closure, students still lost five teaching days over the period.
Teachers unions opposed the plan to scrap school holidays to make up the time.
The SA Onderwysers Unie (SAOU) said that it received communication from the DBE that the following changes would take place:
- That the five days from 4 to 8 October 2021 must be utilised to compensate for the lost school days;
- The third and fourth terms will be separated by a long weekend by declaring 23 September 2021 as a school holiday.
“The absolute fixation to insist on the normal 200 school days per annum despite the fact that the world is experiencing an extraordinary period as a result of the Covid pandemic makes no sense whatsoever,” the SAOU said.
The move was also criticized by the Democratic Alliance, which said the department should look for other ways to catch up on lost time.
“While it is important to implement strategies to catch up on lost time, the department cannot simply suspend learners’ holidays,” it said.
“Holidays play a crucial role in allowing learners to take much-needed time off, which is crucial to ensuring good mental health and will aid the learner in their preparation for the following term to come.
“Instead of once again disrupting the academic year and putting learners and teachers of risk of burnout, the DBE should look at the importance of finding innovative ways to catch up on lost time.”