The impact of lockdown on education in South Africa

Getting past the disruptive chaos Covid-19 caused this country’s education in 2020

It seems we have already adjusted to the coronavirus as a fact of life. Facemasks are a normal sight. It has become natural to use hand sanitizer when entering a shop or restaurant. We sit more than a meter apart at religious and other gatherings. We are navigating the anxiety of a global pandemic.

We seem to be past the peak that we saw in June until September in this country. There are warnings of a second wave, but many South Africans are getting back to a regular routine.

It is hard to believe that the entire world just about came to a standstill. This was only a few months ago, and still ongoing in several nations. Many facets of many countries have seen a very negative effect because of the pandemic. The impact on education has been of particular concern.

Can you believe these numbers showing the impact of covid-19 on worldwide education?

We have written about the statistics already. But the figures are so astronomical it is difficult to believe.

In March this year it was reported that worldwide over 290 million pupils had seen their studies disturbed. That is more than six times the entire population of South Africa.

Three months later that figure sat at over 1.7 Billion people who had had their learning seriously disrupted. This included over 1.5 billion students and youth and their families. This was because of the worldwide school closures. These closures were in effect in 192 countries at one point. That is over 21% of the entire world’s current population. It was also estimated that Covid-19 had affected over 99% of the world’s student population.

Where are the world’s students at towards the end of October, 2020?

31 countries are still affected by school closures throughout the world. This information is from October 27, 2020. This means that more than 33% of the global population of students is affected right now. This translates into about 580 million learners still not able to attend school.

The impact of lockdown on education in South Africa

South Africa has what can be called a two world schools scenario. This means that some children get very good education, while most get a very poor education. For those who were not in the elite bracket of schooling Covid-19 made everything much worse. Many have already fallen behind due to the compromised system of education. The pandemic made their challenges even worse.

The reopening of schools

Many private schools were able to go back much earlier. This was due to having a small student and staff component. Schools with under 125 people at the premises could fully reopen.

This was while the government schools were using a staggered approach to ensure adherence to social distancing. The Grade 7’s and 12’s were the first to go back, with a roll-out of the other grades following.


The plan to catch up lost school time? There have been several suggestions

It seems that not too much is being reported about the way forward regarding education.  Dates have been shifted and some kinks have been worked out. But the actual plan to ensure that students catch up has remained elusive.

Very little is being recounted on the way to address the issue of how to make reparations for the primary school children who lost almost six months of their school year. Searching online for what the plan is turns up next-to-nothing.

But there have been suggestions. One was to see the curriculum trimmed. This would mean that the content wouldn’t change. What would happen is that the content is reduced so that it could be covered when schools reopened.

Another proposal was to see all learners from first to eleventh grade be promoted to their next year of learning. This was to avoid congesting the school system, and doesn’t take the learners’ needs into account.

Another recommendation was that all continuous assessment marks should be abandoned. CAPS is very focused on continuous assessment as a way to ensure that pupils are progressing as they should. Without this in place, holding students accountable in their learning is out the window.

Doing away with the May-June exams was another route that was considered. The time would have been used to catch up on the work that had been missed. Another way to go about it was to start the 2021 academic year much earlier. Counselling and support would have been offered to students and teachers. This was to cope with the psychological impact the disruptions had caused.

Looking ahead to 2021

A principal of a school mentioned something interesting to the writer of this article. He said that it would be only next year that we begin to see the adverse effects of the time lost to the pandemic restrictions. Their school has had many applications. A large percentage of the applications are not able to enter the year they have applied for.

This is an anecdotal line of information. But how many learners are finding themselves ill-equipped for their next grade? How many that would have been ready are now forced to redo work in order to prepare themselves for the work they now need to do?

This country already has the shocking policy of not ensuring students have grasped the concepts taught. Already students are not allowed to be kept back in grade 10 and 11. This is even when it would be in their best interests.

There was a proposal last year that this should be extended to foundation phase. The proposal was rightly met with staunch resistance.

Japari and catching up – NOW!

Japari has a long track record of helping students with specific needs. Our assisted mainstream learning environment welcomes all students. Both gifted and struggling students will find great benefits in Japari’s nurturing school.

With an eye to specifically considering the impact of school closures, Japari’s methods are ideal. Students can all be assessed to see what their specific needs are. Their daily educational programme is then tailored to suit their particular requirements.

This can and will include ensuring that where extra attention is needed, it will be given. Where the lockdown has specifically impeded a learner’s progress, they will be given the necessary help. This assistance will be particular to their distinct personalities and progress.

Our classes are not larger than 15 students. This means that throughout the day pupils’ needs are met from attentive teachers. These teachers are able to focus on the specific needs of the students thanks to the ideal size of the classes. Where a student has not been able to get the input from teachers, they will get it in a Japari class. This is for both foundation phase and intermediate phase students.

Many learners need extra attention. This is to learn details about curriculum subjects and material that gets glossed over during the year. This situation is not uncommon in many schools in South Africa. It would have been made even worse due to Covid-19 lockdowns. In our classes, they would get that needed attention. This allows the students to master the content of what they are learning.

Each of our staff is available to teach extra lessons in the afternoon. Whatever a learner might be struggling with due to this year’s lockdowns, Japari is there to help.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

How South Africa’s matric dropout rate hides the real pass rate

It’s final: Schools will reopen on 1 June for grades 7 and 12