Equal Education in the Eastern Cape says the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on the education system of the country, especially in the rural areas.
The organisation’s Thulisiwe Nkatsha says the pandemic has also highlighted the inequality between public and independent schools.
Independent schools have already begun with their 2021 academic programme, while public school learners will only go to class on February 15.
“That some independent schools are currently operating, and that some public schools may offer remote learning for the first two weeks of February, means that learners from poorly resourced schools will get left behind. The right to learning for all children must be protected,” Equal Education says.
The Department of Basic Education delayed the opening of public schools by two weeks due to the second wave of the COVID-19 in the country.
Equal Education is urging DBE and provincial education departments to use this time to ensure that the non-negotiables are in place so that schools can safely reopen as soon as possible. “We understand the need to ease the pressure on our health system, but we also worry about the negative impact of extended school closures on learning, and on the mental and physical wellbeing of learners.”
One grade 11 learner from the Eastern Cape has also expressed worry over the delays in schools’ reopening.
“I don’t feel very well about schools being delayed. It makes me feel under pressure as I’m going to do Grade 11. I believe there’s a lot of work to do in Grade 11 so I won’t be able to cover all the work. The positive thing about the delays is that [what] the Department can do in the meantime is to fix classrooms, give more textbooks, [and] build a library and computer labs in other schools,” says Mihlali Snyman. – Report compiled by Qaqamba Mdunyelwa from the Alfred Nzo Community Radio news team.
The department announced the move on Saturday, following a meeting with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).
The council is made up of education MECs.
Its resolve follows a high court judgment on Friday, which set government’s decision for matrics to write the leaked papers on December 15 and 17, respectively.
“CEM agreed that the Class of 2020 has been confronted by many challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would therefore be unfair to further subject the Class of 2020, their teachers and parents to further uncertainties and exacerbate the anxieties they currently face.”
Congress Of South African Students (Cosas) is elated over the developments.
Reacting to the Friday court ruling, the organisation’s National Spokesperson, Douglas Ngobeni, said: “We are happy that the court made a sober ruling, a sober decision that our learners can not be subjected to cleaning up after the mess of the Department of Basic Education.”
The Professional Educators Union (Peu) has welcomed the Department of Basic Education’s decision for leaked exams to be rewritten.
This comes amid dissent over the decision announced by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, on Friday. She said matriculants will re-write maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2 on 15 and 17 December, respectively.
The task team set up to probe the matter has said it couldn’t establish how many schools and learners had access to the two leaked papers prior the exam.
Peu Spokesperson, Klass Mohlatlole, says it is those findings that made the organisation throw its weight behind the DBE’s stance.
Mohlatlole adds that this should be done to protect the quality of education and matric results.
The union is urging matriculants to ignore calls for a rewrite boycott.
The call comes amid revolt from learner organisation Cosas and teachers union Sadtu. Both organisations have approached the courts in a bid to have the decision overturned. Cosas National Spokesperson Douglas Ngobeni filed an urgent interdict in the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, while Sadtu went to court on Monday.
“Part of the documents which were submitted to the court of law are the affidavits written by learners expressing their outrage regarding the exam rewrite”, Ngobeni says.
Ngobeni adds that their rejection of the exam rewrite was derived from concerns from learners.
The Department of Basic Education has condemned the torching of four schools in Moruleng, north of Rustenburg, in the North West.
The incidents occurred last Thursday night.
“The Department of Basic Education condemns this callous act of vandalism and appeals to the community to help the police with information that can lead to the arrest of the criminals. Schools are community assets. We must protect them,” the DBE’s Elijah Mhlanga says.
Five classrooms and the administration office were some of the properties that caught fire at Manamakgotha Secondary.
“At Raphurele Secondary in Welgevaal village attempt was made to burn classrooms, in Moruleng, two classrooms’ doors were partially burnt and at Dikwepi Primary School two classrooms were completely torched while one was partly burnt,” the North West Education Department says in a statement.
The incidents come as schools across the country gear up for the 2020 final exams, which begin on the 5th of November.
A probe into the matter continues and no arrests have yet been made.
The education department says it is evaluating the cost of the damage.
School vandalism in South Africa is an ongoing problem.
In April, the Department of Basic Education revealed that 397 learning centres had been vandalised in the country since the COVID-19 lockdown started on March 27.