Yikes! Some grades may only return to school in July

The basic education department is considering a ‘phased-in’ approach to the resumption of schooling

    SLOWLY, SLOWLY The department of basic education is proposing that children go back to school in phases.
    Image: Alon Skuy

Hiring teachers to replace those who contracted Covid-19, rescheduling matric exams so they end in the first week of December, “trimming” the curriculum and extending the school day by between 30 minutes and two hours.

These are just some of the proposals contained in a draft document by the department of basic education titled “2020 recovery plan for post Covid-19 lockdown”.

The proposals in the 39-page document, which Times Select has seen, were discussed with teacher unions and governing body associations on Wednesday.

Because of the high risk associated with large gatherings, the department is considering “a phased-in approach” that will allow two grades to be admitted to school at a time. The proposal is that matric pupils and grade 7s will resume schooling on May 6 if the lockdown is lifted on April 30 and the department of health gives basic education the green light.

If the matrics and grade 7s return on May 6, they would have lost 25 days.

The other grades that will return to school on a staggered basis include grades 11 and 6 (May 20); grades 10 and 5 (June 3); grades 9 and 4 (June 17); grades 8 and 3 (July 1); grades 2 and 1 (July 8); and Grade R (July 15).

If the matrics and grade 7s returned on May 6, they would have lost 25 days. Because pupils from the other grades would be returning to class later, grades 11 and 6 would have lost 32 days; grades 10 and 5, 44 days; grades 9 and 4, 53 days; and grades 8 and 3, 63 days. Grades 2 and 1 would have lost 68 days, while grade R pupils would have lost 73 days.

According to the document, the curriculum recovery plan is based on the assumption that grades 12 and 7 pupils return on May 6.

The proposed recovery mechanism for grades 12 and 7 is to extend the second quarter by two weeks, which means the July and September holidays would be five days and one day respectively.

“It is proposed there should be curriculum trimming to reduce the pressure on teachers and learners to cover the normally extensive curriculum.”

The trimming of the curriculum could involve “removing less important and outdated content” and “deciding what topics to keep and what to give up”.

“Curriculum trimming will only apply in the case of grades 1 to 11 and not grade 12. An identification of the core content must be made by subject specialists and must be done judiciously.”

The department proposed that the school day be extended by 30 minutes for grades 4 to 6, a maximum of one hour for grades 7 to 9 and two hours for grades 10 to 12.

The recovery plan for all the remaining grades will follow the same approach adopted for grade 7, by extending the remaining school terms or extending the school day.

The department proposed that the day be extended by 30 minutes for grades 4 to 6, a maximum of one hour for grades 7 to 9 and two hours for grades 10 to 12.

The suggestion was that the school day for pupils from grades R to 3 should not be extended.

“The normal school day could be extended at all schools for identified subjects. Subjects which require high cognitive demand, problem-solving and reasoning will receive preference.”

The department proposed that the grade 12 preparatory exam should still be administered “given its importance”.

“It is envisaged that provincial education departments will make available a minimum health and hygiene pack to all schools, consisting of soap, alcohol-based sanitiser per classroom, disinfectant and masks where possible.”

The document stated that among the biggest challenges the basic education sector had to deal with was “screening, but not the testing of all teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as all learners”.

The department painted three scenarios to address possible teacher shortages as a result of educators falling ill after contracting the disease during the lockdown.

These scenarios made assumptions on 5%, 10% and 15% of the teaching force not reporting for duty after falling ill. This translated to 19,518, 39,037 and 58,555 teacher posts respectively.

It is envisaged that provincial education departments will make available a minimum health and hygiene pack to all schools.

It said funding would become available after 907 teachers retired between March and September.

“During monitoring in the first quarter it was reported that 17,760 posts had been set aside for substitute purposes and these posts could be used for replacing teachers who are recovering from the illness.”

A further 3,893 graduates, beneficiaries of the department’s Funza Lushaka Bursary scheme for trainee teachers, were still seeking employment and could be used to fill in for those who were sick.

“However, despite the contingency arrangements, the reopening of schools will be dictated by how the infection rates proceed over the next few weeks and months. The priority of the department is to protect the health and safety of our learners.”

Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, said lives were more important than the curriculum.

“It’s more important to have the child that we teach tomorrow than to lose the child because we brought them to school too early.”

By:Prega Govender



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