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Experts say 'equal teaching impossible’ as more pupils return to school

12 July 2020 - 00:00 By PREGA GOVENDER
Learners at Dulcie September Primary School in Rabie Ridge, Midrand, get screened for Covid-19 before their return to class.
Learners at Dulcie September Primary School in Rabie Ridge, Midrand, get screened for Covid-19 before their return to class.
Image: Thulani Mbele

As more grades return to school in the coming weeks, pupils at schools experiencing classroom, furniture and teacher shortages will receive fewer lessons than their counterparts at wealthier schools.

Pupils at many township and rural schools are also being disadvantaged because wealthier schools can apply to bring back pupils long before the date of return designated by basic education minister Angie Motshekga.

Education experts this week said Covid-19 has exposed the inequalities between schools because not all of them have the opportunities for expansion or platooning.

Professor Labby Ramrathan, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said: “If people think there’s going to be equal teaching in a grade across all schools, they are on the wrong planet.”

He said there were different levels of inequality among schools, including in the provision of facilities.

“It’s much easier for former Model C schools to manage social distancing because they have bigger classrooms and there’s more space in between learners.”

Professor Ursula Hoadley, from the school of education at the University of Cape Town, said that “rather than all schools closing due to the abject situation in some, the awareness of inequalities should spur everyone, and the provincial and national departments especially, into providing support to schools that need it”.

She said schools need support and direction on how to manage learning, “something that the DBE [department of basic education] thus far has been slow to provide”.

Professor Nicky Roberts, from the University of Johannesburg’s education faculty, said: “In many countries there is agreement for there to be no high-stakes assessments, as a result of the pandemic. I think this should be our approach for grades R to 11.”

Meanwhile, at Sedimothole Secondary School in Limpopo, a teacher said that when the grade 10s return on July 20, they will only be able to be taught one day a week because of a shortage of additional classrooms to ensure social distancing.

Although the department delivered three mobile classrooms to the school on Wednesday, they could not be used because furniture was not delivered, the teacher said.

“If you are a language teacher teaching verbs to grade 10s, you will have to teach it over five days to the five groups before moving to the next topic. There’s no progress.”

He said there was “simply no space” for the grade 8 and 9 pupils once they return. “If we are forced to take them, we will have to make the grade 12s rotate days, which means they won’t be taught every day.”

Grades 5 and 8 pupils at most public schools are only expected back on August 31, which means they will have only 70 school days this year.

But with schools opting to teach different grades on alternate days because of classroom shortages, it is likely the grades 5 and 8 pupils will be taught for only 35 days.

However, pupils attending wealthier government schools will benefit by being taught on more days as many of these schools have opted to bring in other grades earlier than on the dates gazetted by Motshekga.

David de Korte, principal of Camps Bay High School in Cape Town, said pupils at schools that apply to bring back grades earlier “will be at a massive advantage as these children will have more contact time in class”.

He said the school had planned on bringing back grade 8 pupils on July 20 instead of the gazetted date of August 31.

“But the upsurge in infections made us take a decision on Friday to push the date further. But it won’t be as late as August 31.”

De Korte, who is the national president of the South African Principals’ Association, said he did not believe pupils in the same grade across SA would receive the same number of hours of teaching in a subject.

“I don’t believe that’s possible. Already some schools have been able to give work to grade 8s and 9s through online lessons, while at other schools there has been no contact at all with learners since schools closed in March.” 


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