South Africa’s school year must be scrapped and all learners should be progressed to the next grade. This is the view of education expert Professor Jonathan Jansen.
In an interview on SABC News, Jansen said we currently do not know when schools will reopen in South Africa.
“What we do know is that when schools are eventually reopened, they will not be able to proceed as usual for two reasons,” said Jansen.
Firstly, the CAPS curriculum for schools is already loaded without the lost time brought on by schools closing during the national lockdown.
He said it would be unfair to ask teachers to try and make up for this lost time.
Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic is a new scenario faced by the education system – which means it “completely unreasonable” to expect teachers and learners to “simply switch on” again and continue with the school year.
He added that he is concerned about the Department of Basic Education cancelling time off during school holidays and weekends in a bid to “cram” in as much knowledge as possible before the end-of-year exams.
“This is highly irresponsible,” he said.
Poor children hit hardest
Jansen said one of the consequences of reopening schools this year will be that inequalities which already exist in the education system are exacerbated.
While 20% of schools continue to have online learning, 80% of the country’s learners do not have access to the required facilities.
“To simply reopen as normal is to almost ensure that the rich get richer, if you know what I mean, and the poor get poorer. This is just wrong.”
“I do not think we should try to cram everything we have lost into the rest of the school year. It will make a bad situation worse.”
He went on to state that you often see 90 to 100 learners in a classroom in local schools, and this will make essentially make it impossible to ensure social distancing takes place if schools reopen.
“This is a dangerous plan,” he said.
Scrapping the year
Jansen said the scrapping of the school year would work as follows:
- When schools reopen, continue as normal in terms of teaching children the curriculum.
- Do not put pressure on teachers.
- Pass every learner in Grade 1 to Grade 11 at the end of the year.
- Use 2021 to reorganise their curriculum.
- For Grade 12 (matrics) wanting to go to university, the universities must accept them based on their preliminary acceptance results from Grade 11.
- Universities and schools must sit together to plan a bridging curriculum for these progressed matrics.
Too early to call
In a column on TimesLive, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education Elijah Mhlanga said it is too early to scrap the school year.
“In fact, that thought had not even occurred to Minister Angie Motshekga. It is actually laughable that this kind of suggestion would come from an academic who occupies a position such as his,” stated Mhlanga.
“It is not the first time the basic education system has experienced such disruptions.”