Coronavirus widens stark education divide in SA

At the time of going to print, schools in the BCM area would have been open for just under two weeks.

When it was first announced that pupils would return on June 8, one of the main concerns raised was how pupils were expected to make up for the nearly four months of study they lost due to the lockdown.

Some schools, as previously reported in the GO! & Express (‘EL schools optimistic’, June 11), said they had moved their classes online, with Merrifield Preparatory School and College headmaster Guy Hartley saying the switch to digital meant “we have not lost any teaching time”.

The push to digitise education has been growing over the years, helped in no small part by the country’s increased focus on the much-touted Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

And while it is admirable that some schools are making the leap, the obsession with tech-based solutions has one fatal flaw: they are out of the reach of most schools in SA.

It’s no secret that education in our country is in a perilous state, with the majority of pupils forced to use facilities that are, at best, under-developed or non-existent at worst.

As John Goodrich said: “How must children learn about computers if they haven’t got one to sit in front of? It’s like trying to teach someone to drive without a car.” Things were bad back in the “normal” days, but Covid-19 has made all of our existing problems so much worse.

So what happens to all those pupils who, for whatever reason, could not simply go digital and have effectively lost almost half a year’s worth of schooling?

The truth is there are no easy answers.

Some have suggested altering the entire syllabus, or at least the final exams, so that certain portions are removed to account for lost time.

Others have proposed far more drastic action such as writing off the entire school year and starting over in 2021.

I won’t pretend to have the answers, but I do know that whatever course is ultimately decided on, it needs to be carefully thought out.

Education is supposed to be the great step-ladder to a better life, but at the moment it looks like that ladder is being kicked out from under the feet of a lot of children.


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