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Schools are geared up for 2021

Provincial education departments have charted a way for learners to complete the lessons not taught in 2020 by early this year — and those who dropped out of school will be welcomed back. This catchup will be achieved through curriculum boot camps, earlier starting hours and weekend schooling. 

Learners missed months of education during 2020 when schools were either closed or partially opened as a result of the various Covid-19 levels of lockdown. 

In its presentation to the parliamentary basic education portfolio committee the department said curriculum coverage had been adversely affected. 

Grades seven and 12 missed three months and other grades gradually returned to the classroom from July. The last batch went back to school at the end of August, which meant they were out of school for five months. 

As a result, the curriculums for all grades — except grade 12 — have been trimmed, the department said.

Its presentation, which focused on readiness for the 2021 academic year, included the plans of the nine provincial departments regarding completing the 2020 curriculum and the management of the new year’s curriculum. 

The plans outlined by the provinces include extra lessons in the mornings, afternoons and during weekends for grades five to 12. School hours will also be extended.

Teachers in a lower grade will be required to inform teachers in the next grade of the topics that were not covered in 2020. 

Education Minister Angie Motshekga said last week that all provinces had finalised the admission process and that teachers will return to work on 25 January and learners will be back in the classroom on 27 January. 

The Northern Cape basic education department will extend its school days twice a week and provide extra support through morning and afternoon classes, particularly for grades six, seven and 12. 

The province also plans to profile schools to assess the level of learning that has been lost. 

In Mpumalanga, learners in grades five, nine and 12 will be expected to attend extra classes to make up for the content not taught in 2020. 

The Eastern Cape department said it had started subject workshops in schools to ascertain which topics were not covered in each subject in each grade. 

In Limpopo, teachers will have to record learning not covered in 2020 for the teacher receiving learners from a lower grade. 

To prepare 2021’s matric class the Free State and Gauteng have decided to start teaching before 27 January to cover grade 11 content that was not taught in 2020. 

Pupils in the Free State attended a five-day camp in December to complete subjects such as maths, science and accounting. 

This year learners will attend afternoon and weekend classes to catch up on other subjects.

Matrics in Gauteng will return to classes on 11 January to close their curriculum gap. 

In September, the national department of basic education told the parliamentary portfolio committee it anticipated that  75 000 grade 7 and 12 learners would drop out of school. 

In a written reply in mid-November to Democratic Alliance MP Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi, Motshekga said that it was estimated that more than 300 000 primary school learners had stopped attending classes. 

But the 2021 academic readiness presentation makes it clear that these learners will be welcomed back to classes.

KwaZulu-Natal’s basic education department said the learners who had dropped out will either return to the schools where they were originally registered or placed in alternative schools. 

The Mpumalanga department said the learners would not have to go through the regular admissions process and would instead be reinstated in the grades they were in in 2020. 

In Gauteng, however, learners will have to re-apply for admission into the same grade. 

Some parliamentary portfolio committee members cautioned that schools might be disrupted again as Covid-19 cases increase.

“The committee must rise above potential impending lockdown levels come 2021 school reopening. DBE [department of basic education] must prepare for the worst-case scenario, as fear looms of a resurgence of the pandemic in the future,” said an ANC portfolio committee member.

The portfolio committee was also told that some schools still do not have proper toilets and an acceptable supply of clean water. 

The department said that 530 schools in Limpopo and six in Mpumalanga were without water. Schools were still using pit latrines in: KwaZulu-Natal (1 011; Limpopo (507); Mpumalanga (207); the North West (34) and the Eastern Cape (1 560) — and 580 schools in that province had no toilets. 

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

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