2021 was much calmer compared to 2020, yet there were some questionable moments that got South Africans scratching their heads.
2021 was much calmer compared to 2020, yet there were some questionable moments that got South Africans scratching their heads.

Big events that shook the 2021 school academic year

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Dec 28, 2021

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The past two years have been nothing short of crazy and adopting new ways of doing the same old things. However, 2021 was much calmer compared to 2020, yet there were some questionable moments that got South Africans scratching their heads.

For the education sector, there were moments of eish, jislaaik, and how did that happen? South Africans woke up to find that rotational learning was proven ineffective after months of its implementation and the shocking incident of bullying, which led to the death of Lufuno Mavhunga.

Here are some events that shook South Africans for 2021.

1. Ineffective rotational learning

Several education stakeholders, including the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), had argued that the quality of education was being compromised. It emerged that the rotation system, where learners had been going to school once or twice a week, was proven ineffective, with some learners losing two weeks at a time in some schools.

The rotational-learning system was presented in Parliament by the Department of Basic Education earlier this year as a means to maintain social distancing at schools. This required schools to adopt a bi-weekly rotational system, where 50% of total learners in the school would attend in one week based on their grade. The learners that did not attend school in the first week would then attend school in week two.

“The system where learners have been going to school once or twice a week has proven, in some schools, ineffective, with some learners losing a lot of learning time. Teachers are frustrated over the new system as they try the best they can to keep all learners updated with their school work, but report that the system is not effective, as some learners do not get help at home,” said Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

2. Vaccinations

Thousands of education sector workers heeded the call to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus across vaccination centres in South Africa. The teaching sector was largely impacted by the risk-adjusted lockdown that came into effect last year and led to weeks of lost schooling.

With the backing from teacher unions such as Sadtu and Naptosa, more than 75% of teachers had expressed their willingness to get vaccinated, while others showed reluctance and opted for exemption due to medical and religious reasons.

3. Elections and an early final matric exam start

The class of 2021 has had to overcome difficult, uphill battles due to Covid-19's devastating impact and an unexpected early start to the matric finals added to the list. The department had to amend the matric examination timetable in order to accommodate the Local Government Elections. The matric exams, which were initially scheduled to start on November 1, commenced on October 27, 2021, with English (Home Language, First Additional Language and Second Additional Language) P1, Business Studies P1 written on October 27 and 28, respectively.

4. The death of Lufuno Mavhungu

The news of a Grade 10 Limpopo schoolgirl’s suicide, who overdosed on prescription pills after she was assaulted and belittled by a fellow pupil, shook the nation. In the viral video of the incident, Lufuno Mavhungu, 15, was seen repeatedly slapped while other schoolgirls cheered on, taking a video of the incident.

According to police reports, Mavhungu was rushed to a hospital after she overdosed on pills and locked herself in her room. She arrived at the hospital unconscious and was later certified dead on arrival.

Bullying has become a topic for discussion on most dinner tables and places of work, and her death has led to government and organisations creating awareness and work towards curbing bullying in schools.

5. Grade R compulsory

Parents can face up to 12-months of imprisonment if they withhold their children from attending Grade R with no just cause. This is according to the amendment bill made to the Schools’ Act published by the Department of Basic Education.

The new Amendment Bill of Basic Education states that school attendance is compulsory from Grade R and no longer from Grade 1, as is currently the case. Previously, school attendance was compulsory from Grade 1.

Anyone who blocks a child from attending school without any just cause, including parents, schools or governing bodies, would be guilty of an offence and face a possible fine and/or imprisonment.

6. Free State freak storm no match for class of 2021

Grade 12 pupils in the Free State are now breathing a sigh of relief after their exam scripts were found after a storm damaged parts of the marking centre at Albert Moroka High School last week.

The education department has confirmed that they have counted the scripts, and all scripts were found.

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