No further changes to 2021 school calendar – Motshekga

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Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. PHOTO: GCIS

The Covid-19 pandemic has reversed the gains in education made over the past 20 years … and pupils will be paying the price for decades to come.

The Citizen reports, yesterday, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said by comparing how much children learned in 2020 with how much they learned in an average school year before, between 50% and 75% of a typical year’s worth of learning was lost during 2020.

“The unprecedented closures of our schools, and the unplanned disruptions to teaching and learning, have resulted in the reversal of gains made in the last 20 years,” Motshekga said at a press briefing.

Yet, despite the bad news, Motshekga said pupils and teachers can still look forward to the upcoming planned October holiday despite the lost time in the education sector due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

She said the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) met on Friday to consider inputs from stakeholders regarding the already amended school calendar for the 2021 academic year.

“Three options emerged from the consultations, and these were presented to the CEM for consideration. In the end, it was agreed that the amended 2021 school calendar be retained as it was from its very last amendment – that the October holiday will not be interfered with,” Motshekga said.

Motshekga added the CEM recommended that the lost number of school days should be recovered at district and school levels.

Motshekga also said the department will, in collaboration with the departments of health, and social development, continue to provide health services to pupils in schools through the Integrated School Health Programme.

“The health services include checking the child’s health, de-worming, routine immunization against measles, polio, and Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer later in life, as well as checking for common health problems, provide health education and mental health and psycho-social support,” Motshekga said.

No vaccines for school kids

Motshekga said there were currently no Covid vaccines that were approved in the country for people under the age of 18 years.

“Contrary to rumours on social media, there is no intention whatsoever to vaccinate children for anything other than what is already declared in the form,” Motshekga said.

She added those spreading the rumours were causing panic among the school communities.

Motshekga encouraged all the 18-year-olds and above in the schools to get vaccinated.

Gauteng shadow education MEC Khume Ramulifho said the Democratic Alliance shared the concerns as many pupils were losing out, especially those from townships and rural areas.

“This will widen the inequality gap in our country as all pupils will be competing for the same opportunities but we’re not offered the same access,” he said.

Ramulifho said the rotational learning system was ineffective and added the department should have planned better with more resources to ensure effective teaching.

“It is unfortunate that very few schools have returned and this is leading to high dropout,” Ramulifho said.

He said the department must plan better for the next academic year and prioritise resources allocation to benefit pupils.

“Not things like decontamination of schools without benefits to both pupils and teachers but only education to officials,” Ramulifho said.

The Citizen/Marizka Coetzer