Teachers trying to catch up, ‘ticking boxes’, overloading learners

Teachers who spoke to the Mail & Guardian this week are not confident that any effective teaching and learning will take place during this academic year, even if it is extended. 

The teachers said they were racing against time and “ticking boxes” even with the few grades had already returned to school. 

A grade 5 teacher, who has been roped in to teach grade 7, said that although the curriculum has been trimmed teachers still find themselves “overloading” learners with work. 

The KwaZulu-Natal teacher said there is a hurry to cover as much of the curriculum as possible and even the one-hour teaching periods seems not long enough. 

“We are trying to catch up. We are doing work that we should do over two weeks in one week so that you are at least ahead in case of any eventuality,” she said. 

The teacher was referring to the number of times schools would have to close because of Covid-19 cases. She said that since schools opened in June her school was closed twice, and for a week she also did not come to work because she had been in contact with someone who had tested positive.

“When you do get an opportunity, you spend four hours in class. If one teacher is not at school you use their periods to do as much work as you can. Learners do lose concentration but we just want to tick a box that we have covered a certain area [of the curriculum].”

A Limpopo teacher said that learners are bombarded with work at school and they received homework for every subject so that they would catch up. The teacher said her colleague told her that her grade 7 child was so overwhelmed that he does half of the homework in the afternoon when he gets home and wakes up early the next day to finish it. 

The grade 7 teacher said she was worried about more grades returning to school because increased emphasis will be on grade 7, which is the exit grade. “We are barely coping with these ones who were already back,” she said.

After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announced that schools close for a month, the department of basic education said in a statement that schools should arrange for learners to get work to do work during the break. 

A grade 1 and 2 teacher said this is easier said than done and that it is even more difficult in rural areas. 

She said the majority of the learners she teaches live with their grandparents and parents who are illiterate. She said ordinarily the learners do not even do homework because they have no one to assist them with at home. 

The teacher said she was certain that when her grade 1 and 2 classes finally return to school they would have forgotten everything. She said even if they do move on to the next grade those teachers would have to cover the work of the previous grade in the first and second term to help those learners to get into the swing of things.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

Big retailers need to step up to the plate

To stave off a multi-generational malnutrition crisis, the food industry must work with government to provide highly nutritious foods at cost during the pandemic

Students, we will need your critical thinking after the Covid-19 hard reset

Economically disadvantaged students suffer most from disrupted education, but they also have the most to contribute to lessening inequality when we build the new normal

The unbearable sadness of lockdown

Loneliness can seem like a hopeless hole that increases anxiety, depression, fears or thoughts of suicide

Now is the time for true innovation in education and the economy

Because of the government’s indecisiveness, we have missed the boat on charting new territory for learning

Cellphones, Covid-19 and zoom calls: The making of ‘Cabin Fever’

‘Cabin Fever’, written, directed and produced by Tim Greene, was filmed on cellphones during the hard lockdown earlier this year. It’s a no-budget triumph

Covid-19 a ‘catalyst for closing the pay gap’

Executive directors earn 66 times the national minimum wage and are overwhelmingly white, a report by assurance, advisory and tax services company PwC has found

Shongweni stink: EnviroServ bosses back in court

Managers charged over landfill emissions want charges set aside

Jailed journalist a symbol of a disillusioned Zimbabwe

Hopewell Chin’ono backed President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he succeeded Robert Mugabe. Now he’s in jail

Covid-19 a ‘catalyst for closing the pay gap’

Executive directors earn 66 times the national minimum wage and are overwhelmingly white, a report by assurance, advisory and tax services company PwC has found

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday