Thursday, 01 October 2020

Pretoria: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has expressed concern for learners who have not returned to school yet, despite schools operating at full capacity under alert level 1 of the lockdown.

“We are concerned that there are learners who have not returned to school yet. In the schools that we have visited, the return rate is between 80% and 90%. While it is encouraging to see the numbers increase gradually, we appeal to parents release their children to return to school,” said the Minister.

Motshekga called on parents and communities to support their children as they return to school under the new normal ushered in by COVID-19.

“The rotation or platooning approach that schools are using means that there are designated days when learners are at school, and other designated days they are not. This again increases the risk of them losing interest, and forgetting critical curriculum topics already covered at school.

“The difficulties in timetabling will be with us for the remainder of the year, as we continue to balance teaching and learning, while saving lives,” said the Minister.

Teachers with comorbidities also return to school

Teachers with comorbidities also returned to school following the announcement on 16 September by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country would be going to level 1, effective from 21 September.

In May this year, an agreement was reached at the Education Labour Relations Council that in lockdown level 3 and 2, teachers with comorbidities would be granted concessions to work from home.

The effect of that announcement was that the Collective Agreement with the unions, which allowed teachers with comorbidities to work from home under lockdown level 3 and 2, ceased to exist.

“Provinces have reported that all teachers have gone back to work, except those teachers who are on maternity or sick leave. We thank each and every one of our teachers for heeding the call to return to school. Health and safety measures remain in place and everybody is expected to comply, as we work to finish the work for the 2020 academic year,” said the Minister.

Learner support interventions

To support matric learners who returned to school since the first week of June and only had a week’s break in July, the department implemented various support initiatives.

Provinces put in a place a whole range of measures to support the learners, including Saturday and Sunday classes.

In addition to the extra classes provided at schools, the department also launched Woza Matrics, in collaboration with the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT). This is an initiative designed to provide additional support to the Matric Class of 2020, as they prepare for the 2020 National Senior Certificate examination. We thank all the partners involved in the initiative.

“We are really grateful for the commitment, dedication and sacrifice demonstrated by our educators in every province,” said Motshekga.

Extracurricular activities

With the country having moved to alert level 1, the department proposed the resumption of non-contact sport training and physical activities in schools, subject to compliance with measures to prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19.

The department is set to gazette new directions on the resumption of non-contact sport once it concludes its processes.

Countdown to 2020 matric exams

The countdown to the matric examinations has begun, with just 34 days to go until candidates sit for the 2020 National Senior Certificate examinations.

The writing of the 2020 NSC examination will start on 5 November 2020 and end on 15 December 2020.

The Basic Education Department (DBE) rescheduled the exams to accommodate the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today, we launch the official countdown to the examinations. It is now 34 days to the start of the NSC examination for the Matric Class of 2020.

“We appeal to parents, guardians, and communities to rally behind all the candidates who will be writing their final exams this year. It is an extraordinary time for them and all of us, but they need the support more,” said DBE Minister Angie Motshekga.

The June Senior Certificate (SC) examination was postponed, and will now be written together with the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination in November 2020.

The examination timetable for the combined June and November examination had to be amended so that this examination commences in November, instead of October 2020, as was initially planned.

2021 school calendar to kick off on 25 January

Following the revision of the school calendar, schools will reopen on 25 January 2021, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said.

“First, let me confirm that schools will reopen on 25 January 2021; second, the school calendar will be gazetted tomorrow, Friday, 2 October, after which it will be publicly available.”

“We are fully aware that the country needs the school calendar for effective planning purposes, and we have worked hard to ensure it is done properly, taking into account the disruptions that have occurred in 2020,” said Motshekga.

With much of the school year obliterated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Motshekga said schools will have to carry over some of the curriculum work into 2021.

“We have done our best to accommodate the interests of everybody, but our priority is the learner,” she said.

With many school days lost this year, especially in the early grades, Motshekga expressed concern at the impact on long-term learning, and the potential increase of inequality in learning outcomes.

This situation, she said, makes it more urgent than before to provide sufficient support to teachers.

“All teachers know that catching up lost learning, or learning recovery, is not an easy, quick activity but requires a lot of dedicated time.

“This will include a concerted effort by both parents and teachers and will need to extend into the 2021 academic year. To allow for this, we have revised the annual teaching plans to extend to next year.” said the Minister.