Cape principal's nifty plan to keep kids fed, educated during lockdown

Teachers hand out worksheets to pupils lining up for parcels

12 April 2020 - 00:00
By PREGA GOVENDER
Westlake Primary principal  Landeka Diamond, right, oversees  social-distancing  measures as Abieda Isaacs  hands out   food. When  the  children pick up their lunch packs,  they are given worksheets to help them catch up on lost lessons.
Image: Esa Alexander Westlake Primary principal Landeka Diamond, right, oversees social-distancing measures as Abieda Isaacs hands out food. When the children pick up their lunch packs, they are given worksheets to help them catch up on lost lessons.

A school principal has found a novel way to educate her pupils during the Covid-19 lockdown - by dishing out worksheets to them when they arrive to fetch their food parcels.

For Landeka Diamond, headmistress of Westlake Primary School in Cape Town, providing online lessons to her 750 pupils is not an option.

Some pupils in SA can access schoolwork online because they have cellphones and data for internet connectivity, but 80% of her pupils are from very impoverished backgrounds and cannot afford this.

Since the start of the lockdown, about 250 of her pupils have been receiving food parcels seven days a week. They are prepared at the home of a school staff member with food sponsored by a private family foundation.

Pupils are given the worksheets while they queue to collect food.

"Learners observe social distancing and they are provided with hand sanitisers," Diamond said.

Nonetheless, the Western Cape education department was slammed this week by a parliamentarian for operating its feeding scheme during the lockdown.

The chair of parliament's portfolio committee on basic education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, expressed concern over the possibility of communities being exposed to the virus.

Meanwhile, using WhatsApp groups to teach pupils is becoming the new norm for others during the lockdown as anxious teachers scramble to cover the syllabus.

Evan Papier, a teacher at Groendal Secondary School in Franschhoek in the Western Cape, is teaching his 113 matric pupils life orientation lessons via WhatsApp.

"I send them the content in the form of a picture and then explain it and send a voice note afterwards. It's a low-cost way of learning for the learners," he said.

He uses Google Form - an assessment tool - to test pupils' knowledge, and the marks are available immediately.

Pupils are sent a link to Google Form and they then complete an informal activity online.

One of his pupils, Sibrina Ouanga, asked Papier if he could convince other teachers to use the link to Google Form as she found it a very useful way of "evaluating ourselves every day".

"I use my time and cellphone positively," she said.

Papier's colleague Heidi Snyders, who teaches Afrikaans to grade 11 pupils, asked her pupils to make a video recording of themselves reciting a prepared speech about Covid-19.

"She used their recordings to assess them and give them a mark," Papier said.

Ryan Naicker, a technology teacher at Dannhauser Seconday School in northern KwaZulu-Natal, this week took the unusual step of posting next term's work for his grade seven pupils on a local newspaper's website.

I send them the content in the form of a picture and then explain it and send a voice note afterwards. It's a low-cost way of learning for the learners.
Evan Papier, a teacher at Groendal Secondary School in Franschhoek

"I am very worried about them falling behind because of the lockdown," he said.

Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said hundreds of WhatsApp groups have been created across all grades and subjects.

"Some are from teacher to learner, mainly in the higher grades, and others are between teacher and parent."

Her department will also assist schools to set up "home-learning systems" by providing guides on how to use digital tools for distance learning.

Northern Cape education spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said WhatsApp groups have been established in each subject so that learning material can be shared with pupils.

On Wednesday, lessons in certain matric subjects began to be broadcast over six community radio stations in the Northern Cape.

Limpopo's education spokesperson, Tidimalo Chuene, said through lessons broadcast on radio in Sepedi, Tshivenda and Xitsonga, parents of grades R, 1, 2 and 3 pupils are given activities in numeracy to support their children. "Limpopo is largely rural and the main medium used to reach learners is through radio," she said.

Westlake Primary teacher Elizabeth Koeberg gives pupils schoolwork when  they  come to  pick up their lunch packs.
Image: Esa Alexander Westlake Primary teacher Elizabeth Koeberg gives pupils schoolwork when they come to pick up their lunch packs.

Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said they would be using 19 radio stations to broadcast lessons.

On Thursday, the SABC began broadcasting curriculum-support lessons for grades 10-12 as well as for Early Childhood Development pupils across three television channels and 13 radio stations.

Private tutors this week said there has been huge demand since the lockdown.

Unisa student Kerry-Lee English said 45 students in her WhatsApp group are now offering private online tuition compared with 15 before the lockdown.

"From five enquiries a month for online tutors last year, the group is now receiving 25 enquiries a day," she said.

They charge R100 to R260 an hour.

Three academics at Unisa are providing private online tuition to 47 pupils, including 32 who joined last month.