All primary school learners, as well as pupils attending special needs schools, are to return to the traditional and daily attendance timetabling model from August 2.
This is according to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Minister Angie Motshekga who, on Thursday, published the updated return dates and plans for schools in South Africa.
Motshekga said schools will reopen on 26 July. She said teachers will have to use the week of July 26 “to finalise the preparations for the return to the traditional and daily attendance timetabling model on August 2… provided that the risk adjusted differentiated strategy is implemented”.
Motshekga said school principals, as well as the school management team and non-teaching staff will return to school on 22 July to prepare for the return of learners to school on 26 July.
“Educators must continue with teaching and learning from 26 July in accordance with the timetabling model adopted by the school, until 2 August, from which date the return to the traditional and daily attendance timetabling model must be implemented,” said Motshekga.
Adding that independent schools must close for contact classes until 26 July 2021.
The gazette comes despite the surge in Covid-19 infections across the country.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), an additional 11 215 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2 295 095.
This increase represents a 29.3% positivity rate on Sunday, slowly declining from the 15,939 new Covid-19 cases reported on Friday, said the NICD.
“The majority of new cases today are from Gauteng (39%), followed by Western Cape (19%). Limpopo and Mpumalanga each accounted for 9%; KwaZulu-Natal and North West each accounted for 7%; Eastern Cape accounted for 5%; Free State accounted for 3%; and Northern Cape accounted for 2% of today’s new cases,” the NICD said in a statement.
A study by the National Income Dynamics Study — Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) shows that the average Grade 3 child in June 2021 would have the same learning outcomes as the average Grade 2 child in June 2019.
The study shows that between March 2020 and June 2021, most primary school learners in South Africa have lost 70%-100% – close to a full year – of learning relative to the 2019 cohort.
According to the DBE, in 2020, South African primary school children in no-fee schools learnt 50-75% less than what they normally learn.
“Two large, independent studies showed that, depending on the subject, learning losses in no-fee schools in 2020 ranged from 50-75% of a year of learning when compared to children in 2019,” said DBE Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
Another NIDS-CRAM study shows that the majority of parents and caregivers in South Africa (58%) have also agreed that children should be able to attend school every day, rather than rotational timetables.
“There were strong racial differences with the highest rate of agreement among White respondents (85% yes) and Coloured respondents (69% yes) and the lowest rate of agreement among Black Africans (56%),” reads the study.
Motshekga said the move to take schools back to traditional and daily attendance timetabling model from August 2 is important because about 93 days of schooling have occurred between 15 February 2021 and 30 June.
The minister said evidence points towards additional effects of ‘forgetting’ or regression that could hinder current learning, particularly if teaching occurs as if the content of the previous year’s curriculum has been mastered, let alone learnt.
Some teachers’ unions have welcomed the school’s reopening delay to July 26 but suggested distance and remote learning as Covid-19 infection rates continue to surge.
But Ben Machibi of the Professional Teachers Union said even though they are concerned over loss of academic time, they are more concerned about the disparities that remain in this country.
“Children in private schools continue with remote learning, the masses aren’t able to continue. As the numbers go down, we will work around the clock to ensure that all work is covered,” said Machibi.