The DA welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, that the October school holidays would not be scrapped. The DA still believes that allowing planned school holidays to continue as normal plays a crucial role in the mental health of learners and teachers.
The DA also urges the Minister to institute a curriculum recovery plan as soon as possible. It is very worrying that 50 to 75% of learning time was lost in 2020 and that the 2021 educational year is following the same track. Especially foundation education learners will suffer in their following school years if this is not addressed.
While we understand that it would be difficult to save the curriculum overnight, the DA recommends the following short to long-term measures to recover as much of the curriculum and learning time as possible and give our learners the best chance of future success:
- DBE must ensure that the provinces and various district circuits engage with teaching staff to truly understand the various schools in every district’s specific needs and concerns in completing the curriculum and to find solutions in bridging those shortfalls.
- The provincial departments must also ensure that the districts engage with their local municipalities in order to find safe public spaces where extra measures to increase learning time could be implemented.
These aspects cannot be centralized but requires meeting local needs in unique and innovative ways.
- The Department of Basic Education (DBE) must develop a home-schooling policy to ensure that all children not in schools for whatever reasons, complete their curriculums and make use of all possible learning time available. Measures should also be put in place to monitor home-schooling and ensure quality of schooling is maintained as a method of keeping learners in school and ultimately catching up the curriculum.
- Parallel to the development of safe and quality education at home, DBE must also ensure that all schools in South Africa become havens of safety and education. The DBE must foster community involvement and responsibility in ensuring that local children stay in school. The Department can grow engagement with the community by alleviating their fears for the safety of children in schools. Enough PPE must be provided at all times and teachers and staff should be encouraged to get fully vaccinated. Water and sanitation must also be a top priority. If parents know their children are safe at schools, they will not keep them at home and risk their education.
- Innovation is the best tool moving forward is to ensure that all learners receive the best possible schooling. DBE should create virtual schools through partnerships with technology companies, private schools, department of communications, science and innovation, and universities like the University of Cape Town (UCT) who can provide valuable insight to its challenges and opportunities in creating the UCT virtual school.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the growing chasms in South Africa’s schooling system and nearly two years of broken learning time has exacerbated the challenges learners face in getting a quality education. The Minister and her Department needs to ensure that their time is well-spent in finding innovative solutions to the crisis. World-wide innovative solutions have been found, and there are many schools in South Africa that have also risen to the challenge. The Minister must take inspirations from these innovations and ensure that no child would be left behind.