Low quintile schools have been hit the most by the Covid pandemic. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng
Low quintile schools have been hit the most by the Covid pandemic. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Low quintile schools struggle the most due to pandemic

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Aug 24, 2021

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THE average Grade 3 child in June 2021 would have the same learning outcomes as the average Grade 2 child in June 2019, according to the National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram) Wave 5 research.

The Covid-19 pandemic has deeply disrupted the school year, with the lockdowns forcing schools to close for longer periods. Even though schools have reopened, daily attendance is still a challenge for many schools due to space.

Lower quintile schools have been affected the most, as accessibility to digital resources is limited.

Thozama Njobe, who works for education advocacy non-profit organisation Funda Wande, said new data from Nids-Cram Wave 5 research found that between March 2020 and June 2021, most primary school learners lost 70% to 100% (a full year) of learning relative to the 2019 cohort.

She said the report estimated that 50% to 75% of a year of learning for 160 school days has been lost.

The report adds: “In total, 93 days of schooling have occurred between February 15, 2021 and June 30, 2021. Assuming contact learning for 50% of this time, our best estimates suggest that most primary school children have lost between 70% to a full year of learning since March 2020.

“To put this in perspective, this is the same as saying that the average Grade 3 child in June 2021 would have the same learning outcomes as the average Grade 2 child in June 2019.”

Helette Pieterse, the chief executive of the Make A Difference (MAD) Leadership Foundation, which provides long-term scholarship programmes and offers pupils academic support, said schools implemented different plans in response to the Covid pandemic.

“Since MAD works in over 50 schools across South Africa, it was our experience that schools reacted in vastly different ways and engaged their students at different points in time on various platforms. Learners faced a whole new way of teaching and learning while keeping up with their institutions’ goal of maintaining academic requirement.”

Research conducted by SmartStart and Symphonia for South Africa revealed that many schools experienced a dramatic loss of income from school fees, voluntary contributions and fundraising efforts during the lockdown.

Partners for Possibility Programme director Komala Pillay said: “Most principals in under-resourced schools said they would run out of funds to pay the salaries of their staff who are not employed by the state. This would inevitably lead to retrenchments. We successfully educated our principals, as well as small businesses in school communities, on how to access support in order to keep paying their employees.”

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