For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started, all public primary schools in South Africa fully reopened on 2 August 2021.
Over the last 18 months, these schools have either been temporarily closed during periods of intensified lockdowns or, at best, operating on a limited rotational schedule where children have only attended schools for a few days a week.
The impacts of this situation are only beginning to be fully understood now.
Latest statistics, cited by the likes of Unicef, have indicated that many learners across our country have lost anywhere between 75% to 100% of a full school year ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Other concerning statistics point to how school children have lost 54% of learning time, while up to 500,000 learners have reportedly also dropped out of school altogether over the past 16-months.
In addition, 2 000 schools were looted and damaged during the hard lockdown last year. And we are still counting the cost that the recent unrest had in schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Opportunity to catch up
There’s no doubt that, as a country, we are facing extraordinary challenges in our education system amid these circumstances.
The focus now must be on how we move our education system forward and how we ensure that no child in our country is left behind.
Chiefly, there are four things that our schools can and should do in their catch-up efforts.
The first of these is diagnostics testing. This should be carried out among learners to find out what gaps they have so that adequate remedial measures can be put in place. If teachers and principals have a better understanding of where the shortcomings are, they can deal with them more effectively.
A second key aspect to look at is that of investment in extra class interventions. This would entail having more lessons outside of ordinary schooling hours, and this could prove key to catch-up education efforts across the country.
Already, many South African schools have become accustomed, for example, to having extra Mathematics and Physical Science lessons after school hours and on weekends. These efforts will need to be redoubled and expanded.
A third key aspect to consider is intensifying parent involvement and support. Parents need to be stakeholders in their children’s education. Even though schools are returning to full-time education, parents still need to understand that learning at home will be an extended part of the school day. In this regard, parents need to be aware that they have a role to play when it comes to assisting learners with difficult learning areas.
The fourth final key pillar to accelerate is the use of supplementary educational material, at least where parents can afford it.
In closing, we know that our schools face many challenges, especially those in township and rural areas. More than ever, these schools will need greater support and attention.
However, if all our schools endeavour to accelerate learning amid this unique period in history, we can refocus our efforts and start to change things for the better.
By Aunyana Moloisane, MD of Optimi Classroom
The Optimi Group provides accessible learning solutions that support every step of your learning journey. Optimi provides offerings in four divisions: Home, Workplace, Classroom and College. Together, these divisions support more than 200 000 learners every year.
*Optimi Classroom is a division of the Optimi Group.
Submitted by Fox Street Communications.