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50% to 75% of learning in South Africa lost due to Covid-19, says education department

Lower half-body short of two school girls standing apart

Two learners from Nhlanhlayethu Secondary in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal stand 1.5m apart in adherence to Covid-19 regulations. File picture: Jehran Naidoo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 24, 2021


The Covid-19 pandemic has, since its outbreak in South Africa in March last year, reversed gains made by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) over the last 20 years.

The DBE said between 50% and 75% of learning that takes place during a normal school year had been lost.

“We have now begun to measure Covid-19 related to learning losses in South Africa by comparing how much children learned last year, with how much they learned in a normal school year before that,” director of research in the department, Dr Stephen Taylor said.

He said the data collected so far only pertained to certain grades and learning areas, but it was likely the effects may be similar throughout other cohorts, including early childhood development.

The delay in resuming the academic year would have long-lasting effects on the country’s education system as well as society in general, Taylor said.

More children of a school-going age have not been attending classes at their respective institutions, according to a National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile (Nids-Cram) survey.

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government says in addition to disruptions to learning, schools have become a hot spot for the Covid-19 virus and a primary driver of infection during the third wave of the pandemic in South Africa.

“More than 120 schools have reported clusters in their school settings, and more than 800 learners and teachers have been affected. Learners make up at least 95% of this number, while educators account for the remaining 5%,” KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said this week.

The KZN education department having its budget slashed by more than R6 billion for the current financial year will also likely set back the quality of education, according to Nomusa Cembi, spokesperson for the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu).

Sadtu members in the province embarked on a picket this week over several issues linked to the budget cut, including the failure to fill vacant teacher posts.

“That is frustrating a lot of our members because they cannot teach effectively,” Cembi said.

African News Agency