After attending a student discussion workshop on ’Extramural activities or not during the coronavirus pandemic?’ Brian Isaacs said that is refreshing for him as an adult to hear young student leaders talk about this. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
After attending a student discussion workshop on ’Extramural activities or not during the coronavirus pandemic?’ Brian Isaacs said that is refreshing for him as an adult to hear young student leaders talk about this. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Enlightening learner debate on extramural activities during the pandemic

By Brian Isaacs Time of article published Jun 4, 2021

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by Brian Isaacs

I have already mentioned in a number of my columns that there is a reawakening among learners at schools about their role in the new South Africa. Nearly three decades into democracy there is a re-emergence of the voices of learners, especially at high schools, across the length and breadth of the country.

On May 29, I attended a student workshop hosted by the Western Cape Progressive Organisations’ Formation (POF). The POF was started by parents, teachers and students, various community organisations and trade unions in July last year to protect school communities against the coronavirus pandemic.

Students from different schools across the southern suburbs were invited to a POF student discussion workshop to discuss the topic: “Extra-mural activities or not during the coronavirus pandemic?“

It was refreshing for me as an adult to hear our young student leaders talk about this topic. In today’s world and in South Africa, very often the voices of learners are not heard.

The facilitator sketched the world statistics and South Africa’s statistics on the coronavirus. Briefly the recent statistics are:

– World Health Organization as at May 29, 2021: reported 168 million cases 3.5 million deaths.

– Worldometer as at May29, 2021: reported 1 654 551 cases in South Africa and 56 293 deaths. It was pointed out that if one considers the present world population it represents a very small number of people in the world that have died from this disease.

A lively debate ensued among the learners about the pros and cons of extramural activities at schools. One group in their report- back on their discussion titled their talk “Sitting on the fence”.

They focussed strongly on the disadvantage of participating in extramural activities (sport and cultural activities), listing the following: Will schools be able to obey Covid-19 protocols?; it is extra and should not be a priority; it puts people’s lives at risk; kids from disadvantaged areas will be affected economically if the virus is taken home. They listed the pros only if there is no coronavirus.

The other group indicated the pros of extramural activities during the Covid-19 pandemic: relieves stress; keeps students busy physically; helps with growth – teaching social skills; keeps you fit; some students progress in sport and it encourages competition. This group believed that despite the pandemic, non-contact sport should still be practised.

The National Department of Basic Education has instructed that all primary school learners should return to school at the start of the third term this year. The primary schools must follow the Covid-19 seating regulations. We know that 80% of schools of the poor will not be able to accommodate all the students with the 1.5 m distance. I am sure the department will soon also reach a decision on high schools.

This is a debate that school communities must have. It just cannot be in the hands of the Education Department to decide. We know more about the virus than we did in March last year. It is an urgent matter to discuss openly within schools and between school communities. To me, living involves staying physically alive, but also involves other aspects of living such as learning, teaching and extramural activities.

The students’ debate on coronavirus and extramural activities was extremely interesting and gave me more insight into the learners’ thinking.

* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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