KZN Department of Education considers 'boarding schools' for matrics to make up for lost time
Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education is considering the idea of placing the province’s 117000 Grade 12 pupils in “boarding schools” to make up for the time lost due to the Covid-19 national lockdown.
MEC Kwazi Mshengu said this was one of the recommendations submitted to the Department of Basic Education, as part of the province’s school recovery arsenal.
Mshengu said the plan would be implemented should the lockdown be extended beyond April.
“We do not have enough space to accommodate all our pupils in boarding schools and that is why we will also be looking at using some schools to accommodate the pupils.
“It is important that we make sure that Grade 12 pupils exit this year, otherwise we will not have any floor space.”
The department said it would take all precautionary measures to ensure the plan complied with the safety and health standards, set out in the lockdown regulations. That would include keeping boarding schools under capacity to ensure they observe social distancing.
The Mercury has also been reliably informed that the department was also considering a staggered return to schools, with only pupils in grades 12 and seven returning first.
He said they were exploring other options to make up for the time lost when schools reopened, including extending working hours, shortening the holidays and pushing back some of the exams.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, said they had engaged the department on its plans to place pupils at boarding schools.
“We are concerned there might not be enough space. There are about 117000 matric pupils. What we do not want is for the department to take some pupils and leave others behind. We have suggested they book some in B&Bs, where they will be safe,” she said.
Caluza said the time lost so far was not catastrophic.
“We have lost days in the past, during strikes, and we need to go back to that and see how we recovered at that time.”
National Teachers Union president Allen Thompson said they did not recognise the recovery plan put together by the province, in the absence of the national recovery plan.
“There is a national team that is meeting today that is putting together the national recovery plan and we are engaging with it,” he said.
Vee Gani, of the KZN Parents Association, said placing pupils at boarding schools to help them was a noble idea but difficult and dangerous to implement.
“Parents will be apprehensive to place female pupils at these boarding schools,” he said.
He said the department should review the curriculum and teach only what was necessary for the next grade.
“We have seen proposals that the year should be scrapped and pupils passed to the next grade. How do you pass someone who has been studying for two or three months to the next grade - that is going to be harder?”
The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) has demanded that some parts of the syllabus be excluded from testing at the end-of-year exams.
Cosas threatened a school boycott if its demands were not met.
“If our suggestions are not taken into consideration, we will take to the streets. The pupils will fight and we will not go back to classes,” said Cosas national convener, Katleho Mangoejane.
Their demands included doing away with mid-year exams so that pupils could concentrate on a catch-up plan to recover lost time.
Mangoejane said digital classes were not working.
“Those things are just recorded lessons - how can you teach something like trigonometry, that is already very difficult to grasp in class with a teacher present, over the radio? There is no opportunity to engage, or to ask questions,” he said.
Professor Brahm Fleisch, the head of Education Policy and Educational Change at Wits University, said tampering with the syllabus was a serious issue, especially for matric, as some exam papers had already been printed.
“If they reopen by May 4, there will still be enough time to catch up, but if there is a delay to July, the department would have to take serious decisions,” he said.
The director of the School of Education Studies at UKZN, Professor Labby Ramrathan, said a key part of recovery was for teachers to focus on aspects that would have an impact in the next grade.
He said adjustments to the school curriculum were necessary.