With only a few days left before Grade 12 and Grade 7 students go back to school, much of the discussion has focused on logistics and operational considerations of schools during level 3 of the national lockdown.
However, what has been missing and is needed now is a national catch-up strategy to ensure that all learners will be able to go back to learn equally. In an interview with Lester Kiewit on Cape Talk, Youth Capital Project Lead Kristal Duncan-Williams comments that ” We have to look at the context of our longstanding education crisis – we can see that the COVID-19 is amplifying existing issues. We know that many learners are not on track for their grade and that have learning barriers and knowledge gaps. We also know that these gaps don’t get addressed because of oversized classrooms and under-resourced schools; and then they either get held back in Grade 11, pushed through Grade 12 or these students drop out.”
We can’t blame the teachers; the education policy has shortcomings in making provisions for its implementation in schools. “There have been resources available and many teachers have tried hard to engage with learners, the existing problems that there were before made it even harder, like record-keeping”, adds Duncan-Williams.
Xhasumzi, a Grade 12 student based in Cape Town voices his anxiety about a very difficult year, “the final year is already very stressful and now the Coronavirus outbreak has added extra stress. Most of us aren’t studying, to begin with, we don’t have access to books. With determination, I could carry on studying. But what about everyone else? it’s quite difficult for students who don’t have access to quality education and deal with hunger. So not everyone is going to do well during this matric year, it’s going to be a big problem.”
When Lester asked him about his thoughts around school safety, Xhasumzi said “I don’t feel safe about going back to school: how are we supposed to be sharing books with the social distancing norm? This is going to be a problem.”
Listen to the interview here