Despite the turmoil from the impact of Covid-19 in 2020, Independent Examinations Board (IEB) matric pupils still managed to overcome stress, changing countries and the unique challenges of online and home schooling.
“It is interesting to note that the hard lockdown had differing impacts across schools within the IEB,” the board’s chief executive, Anne Oberholzer, said on Thursday.
Some schools were able to make a smooth transition to online teaching and learning as they had the resources available and had already been using them.
Education analyst Phaphama Mnqandi said the impact of Covid-19 was huge and caused invisible damage to the education system, especially in public schools.
“I have seen pupils walking from school without their masks on and that is a concern on their health and safety,” Mnqandi said.
“When pupils are rotating and going to classes on different days, one can ask on days that those pupils are not in school, what are they doing? Are they learning, or are they simply waiting for the teacher to come back and recap on the days they missed?”
He said the reality was, with matric results coming out in February and matriculants starting their tertiary education in March, they should probably take a gap year and start over in 2022.
“A lot of people have faith in vaccines for a better normal because the only education system we can think about is a pre-Covid world, where kids are sitting down and learning,” he said.
“[The] IEB have had the privilege of support and resources, but looking at public schools, we do not have that. I am not hopeful that exams will be normal, but I am placing my trust in vaccines.”
Oberholzer said many schools could not deploy an online teaching model, because neither the school nor the majority of pupils had adequate resources.
“To fulfil their commitment to teach their [pupils] and not be defeated by the pandemic, teachers reverted to traditional distance education strategies. In some cases, they prepared weekly programmes for [pupils] using textbook references and notes, together with prepared exercises and tasks.”
A number of pupils left school to join distance and online education providers and there was an increase in the number of children being home-schooled.
“However, it soon became apparent for many parents that the concept of home schooling and the complexity and responsibility that goes into ensuring their child is learning at an appropriate standard and pace is enormous, notwithstanding the massive adjustment for [pupils], many of whom struggled with this model and the social isolation,” said Oberholzer.
“Suffice it to say, the educational consequences of the pandemic have brought home a new societal respect for teachers and the role they play.”
She said a number of pupils had opted to write fewer subjects, postponing other subjects to this year.
“Understandably, [pupils] with comorbidities or who shared their home with vulnerable family members were fearful of contracting Covid-19 while writing examinations,” said Oberholzer.
“Despite the extraordinary efforts of schools to manage these specific cases, there were still those cases where the child or the parents could not take the risk.”
The closing date for applications for remarking is 3 March and the results from remarking will be released on 26 March.
The closing date for pupils who qualify to enrol for supplementary examinations is 16 April.