Due to COVID-19, 50% to 75% of school learning time has been lost this year. As a result, there were discussions around cancelling the upcoming October school holidays to bridge the gap. However, the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Sunday that this will not be the case.
“Thankfully, we have now begun to measure COVID-19-related learning losses in our local contexts by comparing how much children learnt in 2020 with how much they learned in an average school year before that. These measures indicate that between 50% and 75% of a typical year’s worth of learning was lost during 2020,” Motshekga said.
As reported by News24, pupils living in poorer communities were hit the hardest due to less access to remote learning opportunities and home support.
Also revealed from the report is that more school-aged children were not attending school than usual.
“It is not yet clear whether this is temporary non-attendance, or may become permanent (dropouts) from schooling. In the long run, the learning losses in primary school may lead to an increase in dropouts when these children reach the Further Education and Training (FET) band at Grades 10, 11 and 12,” Motshekga said.
“What we know at this point is that learners with weak learning foundations begin to drop out in more significant numbers as they progress through the grades. This creates an urgent need to recover learning that has been lost,” she said.
“First time intake into grades R and 1 has dropped. Children aged seven to 14 are now at 10 000 lower than it should be. This points to the dropping out of compulsory-aged children. Even with the best catch-up programmes, it is now considered near impossible to fully recover from the learning losses,” said the professor.
Motshekga added that the delay in the start of the academic year coupled with the absence of learners in school were inevitably going to have a long-lasting negative impact on society (not just on the education sector).
Going forward, Motshekga has emphasised the prevention of further disruptions. She said that this should be a priority.
“If we do not mitigate it now, the consequences are dire. We have to work together to protect our children from further delays. We monitor learner time losses because we know that the longer children stay away from school, the harder it is to bring them back into the class. They’ve become alienated from the education system. It is very disruptive.
“The second step is to introduce measures to catch up on the time as well as the teaching and learning that was lost through the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular. We urge parents and all of our stakeholders in the sector to support our efforts to ensure that education continues without any further delays or disruptions,” Motshekga said.
As for the October school holidays being cancelled, teacher unions and school governing bodies were allegedly up in arms about the scrapping of the holiday after meeting on Friday.
The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) further recommended that the lost number of school days should be recovered at district and school-level, but with reasonableness, as per IOL.