Learners weigh in on their future due to the Covid-19 lockdown

This discussion was brought about to ease the curious young minds of some of the country's learners who are feeling uneasy with regard to the lack of clarity around their current schooling year.

How will the Department of Education recover lost time? Will learners have to repeat the school year? Will universities and other tertiary institutions lower their admission point scores?

These were among the questions brought to the table by learners who participated in a webinar on 12 May as part of Media Monitoring Africa’s (MMA) web series titled Getting to Grips. Based in Parkhurst, MMA hopes to provide a platform that can educate young minds about the coronavirus and its impact on their daily lives. This discussion was brought about to ease the curious young minds of some of the country’s learners who are feeling uneasy with regard to the lack of clarity around their current schooling year. With over 40 days already lost in the school year, the learners admitted to feeling anxious.

Since the country phased into Level 4 of the national lockdown the Department of Basic Education has been deliberating on when exactly school will open and under which circumstances will they operate.

Aside from the provisional date of 1 June for grades 7 and 12, the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga is yet to announce a final date.

According to a learner by the name of Trevor, he is concerned about the phased approach directed at grade 7 and 12 learners. “Although it was said that learners will not be seated together in the classrooms, what will happen when all the other grades phase in? We will be squashed in class and right back to where we started,” he said.

On the receiving end was deputy director of social mobilisation and support for the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Likho Bottoman. “We are anticipating that by the time other grades come back to school, the rate and density of the virus will have decreased in our country,” he said. Bottoman added that the question of social distancing in classrooms is only available in South Africa. “Other countries have resumed classes as normal while heavily investing in personal protective equipment (PPE). We cannot go against our own regulations,” he said.

Another learner, who introduced herself as Matshidiso, shared the concerns of parents who are feeling reluctant to send their children back to school. According to MMA’s Phakamile Khumalo, it was noted in a recent investigative report that younger children are at less risk of contracting and spreading the novel virus.

“It is not saying that they cannot get infected but this investigation allows us the space to play around with ideas of how we can ensure that our young people, in line with the full measures and safety precautions taken into consideration, are empowered to still go to school and get an education,” she said.

Bottoman said that the department is aware of this and many other concerns, adding that it remains imperative for parents to acclimatise to the situation.”It is also important that we, as the department, do to not push the parents but rather journey with them at their own pace. Once they are able to get a better understanding, they will be able to work with us,” Bottoman concluded.

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