NATIONAL NEWS - According to the Minister of Basic Education (DBE), Angie Motshekga, the department is ready for the 2021 school year. In a press conference this morning, 17 December, she spoke about the impact Covid-19 has had on schooling and the curriculum, and how the department intends addressing this going forward.
Three-year recovery plan
“We were clear in May that the impact of Covid-19 would have far-reaching implications; and that recovering from the effects of the pandemic would take place over a three-year period,” she said.
The three-year curriculum recovery plan will be rolled out from 2021 to 2023, and will include implementing the recovery annual teaching plans (ATP) in all grades (R to 12). The recovery ATPs are based on the trimmed curriculum used for 2020; but will include the learning losses that need to be recovered in each grade, based on the learning losses in the previous grade.
The department’s goal with the ATPs is to make up for the learning losses that occurred as a result of the extended closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Matric learners, who had lost 47 days of schooling, returned to school first, and remained till their last day on 15 December. Motshekga explained that the three-year period will enable a gradual recovery of the learning losses, while also building on foundational content required for the next grade. The recovery ATPs have been uploaded on the DBE website, and can already be accessed.
In the new year, the basic education sector will welcome 300 000 young employees in schools. Motshekga said this is part of Ramaphosa’s Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme to create 200 000 employment opportunities for education assistants, and 100 000 for general school assistants. This will be accomplished through the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI). The education assistants will support teachers in the classroom and provide extra support to learners. General school assistants will help schools to comply with Covid-19 protocols, while ensuring that teaching and learning take place in a safe, secure and hygienic environment. These assistants will help out schools till the end of March 2021.
The coronavirus had forced the department to suspend its enrichment programmes, such as Spelling Bee, SASCE, Moot Court, and all sporting activities. The challenges also brought into sharp focus, she said, the need for the sector to strengthen its psycho-social support services. “We managed to reopen schools through the support of other departments and social partners who operate in this space. The psychological impact of the virus will be felt in years to come; we therefore need to work hard in this regard.”
Mothshekga also mentioned the1 493 teachers that the department lost during this time, some as a result of Covid-19. She thanked the parents for trusting them with their children’s safety by sending them back to school, even against advice from opposition from some quarters.
She touched on the topic of school reports, saying she hoped that all learners up to Grade 11 had received their reports; and that the results are a representation of their hard work and effort. “I wish to stress that schools are not allowed by law, to withhold reports for whatever reason. We continue to receive complaints from parents, whose children have not been given reports.”
The minister promised that the DBE will maintain the delicate balance of health and safety in schools and ensure that they plug on gaps for curriculum recovery, as they managed to do during the 2020 academic year.
Senior managers in the sector under the leadership of the Director-General will be working during the festive season to put final touches to the existing plan for 2021.
Schools will reopen on 25 January for teachers and learners are expected back on 27 January.
Motshekga also gave an update on the 2020 matric examinations and expanded on the department’s involvement in the TIMMS, an international study that monitors Grade 4 and 8 learners’ mathematics and science ability levels.