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.

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

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