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'A recipe for disaster': Teacher union slams matric camps amid third wave

04 July 2021 - 00:00 By prega govender
The 2021 matric class will go through the year without sitting for the midyear exams. File photo.
The 2021 matric class will go through the year without sitting for the midyear exams. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The department of basic education is allowing provinces and schools to organise sleepovers for matric pupils attending winter classes, despite discouraging residential camps because they have the potential to become Covid-19 super-spreader events.

The department's director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, said in a circular on Thursday that these camps should only be hosted if the "bubble" concept is followed.

"This entails testing of all learners and staff prior to admission to the camp, and only those that test negative should be allowed in the camp, and there should be no subsequent 'in and out' movement in these camps," Mweli said.

The move has been rejected by the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa), which labelled it "a recipe for disaster".

Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said: "We are also opposed to the walk-in or day camps, particularly at a time like this when the regulations say you shouldn't be gathering in groups and the number of infections among learners and teachers is at an all-time high.

"Is this not a blatant disrespect for what the president has said?"

The South African Principals' Association (Sapa) in Gauteng had earlier decided that winter schools can go ahead, although they will be optional and sleepovers are banned.

The association said matrics have lost too much teaching time this year and last.

Stellenbosch University researcher Nic Spaull said it was going to be difficult for Umalusi, the education quality-assurance body, to determine how to adjust the matric marks of 2021.

"Normally the way they do it is by comparing the results of one year and assuming that the distribution should be no different to the previous years except for exam difficulty," he said.

"If, for example, kids do much worse in the maths exam or much better in science, the assumption is that it's because the exam difficulty changed rather than because the children who were taking the test were either weaker or stronger."

Because of Covid, that assumption is no longer true. "The 2021 matrics lost a huge part of their schooling in grade 11 and now again. We know the 2021 cohort will be weaker in terms of learning outcomes because of missed school," Spaull said.

"Umalusi does not have a mechanism to account for that. They need to tell us how they are planning on dealing with the matric marks of 2021."

Jonathan Jansen, distinguished professor of education at Stellenbosch University, said matric outcomes would be vastly different between quintile 1 and 2 schools, and the quintile 4 and 5 schools for a second year.

"My sense is that it [the matric results] will be worse than last year because of the accumulated disruption of 2020 and 2021."

My sense is that it [the matric results] will be worse than last year because of the accumulated disruption of 2020 and 2021
Professor of education at Stellenbosch University Jonathan Jansen

Thomas Hlongwane, president of Sapa in Gauteng, said members at high schools felt the vacation classes should go ahead "because township pupils need all the contact time they can get".

He added: "My personal view was that as the infection rate was going up in Gauteng it wouldn't be prudent to have learners attending. But it was the view of the collective that classes should go ahead."

Moloko Matsapola, principal of Dendron Secondary School, one of Limpopo's top-performing schools, said 207 matrics would have vacation classes in 10 classrooms.

"We are struggling a lot this year because we have to try and close the gap for 2020," Matsapola said.

Hennie Pieterse, principal of Rustenburg High School in North West, said extra classes for the 255 matrics were "too risky".

Dawie Kriel, principal of Noordheuwel High School in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, said holiday classes had been postponed until October because of an outbreak of Covid cases at the school.

Limpopo education department spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said classes will go ahead in all but two districts, and the Western Cape education department said holiday classes at 160 schools will either be face to face or live-streamed.

Northern Cape education spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said the classes will target 10,344 matrics at 98 underperforming schools. In Mpumalanga, classes will be held for 194 schools that achieved a pass rate of below 70% in last year's matric exams.


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