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Why the Covid-19 pandemic could result in the emergence of different kinds of schools

South Africa - Pretoria - 25 March 2020 - Grade 2, Omphile Bokaba doing her schoolwork home in Nellmapius. All South African schools have closed due to the coronavirus. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA).

South Africa - Pretoria - 25 March 2020 - Grade 2, Omphile Bokaba doing her schoolwork home in Nellmapius. All South African schools have closed due to the coronavirus. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA).

Published Jan 24, 2021


Gauteng has around 1000 public schools that are not geared for online learning. Only 470 schools across the province have the resources to provide e-learning.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it has introduced a web-based content platform which has interactive multimedia content in the form of lessons, videos, animations and assessment activities.

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Pupils and parents can self-register and get access to supplementary curriculum materials to support learning.

But according to an education expert at Wits University, the Covid-19 pandemic will see the emergence of different kinds of schools.

Professor Brahm Fleisch said homeschooling will not be the world order as parents, even those not registered for homeschooling, are finding new and creative ways to assist their children.

“I am seeing the rise of pod schools, where there are between five and six learners per class. Homeschooling is not a choice for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. Some children flourish, but not all,” said Fleisch.

The SA Homeschoolers Organisation said its numbers have grown from about 100 000 when it started in 2018 to about 150 000 in 2020.

Spokesperson for the organisation, Bouwe van der Eems, said some South African homeschool organisations experienced a 100% growth during the pandemic in 2020, and if this growth is a reflection of the total number of home learners, it means that there could be about 300 000 home learners at the beginning of 2021.

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“As the schools reopen and the fear about the pandemic subsides, there might be a slight reduction of numbers in 2021, however, the longer the schools remain closed, the more children will remain home on a permanent basis.There are, however, concerns that conflict between homeschooling families and government will increase in the coming years,” he said.

David Keagle helps his son James Keagle, 10, in a homeschool assignment in St Charles, Iowa, in the US on September 30, 2011. After decades on the margins of political life, homeschoolers have become some of the most valued Republican foot soldiers in Iowa, where a few thousand activists can wield an outsize influence in the first nominating contest in the 2012 presidential election. Picture taken September 30. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION ELECTIONS)

According to Van der Ems, the government is considering legislation that will restrict the rights of parents to choose an education that is in the best interest of their children.

“When it becomes clear that many places in schools will not be filled again, after the pandemic unions would start applying pressure to get more children to return to school.”

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But despite the controversy around the reopening of schools, the organisation said every child learns a little differently and being able to tailor the homeschool curriculum to the needs of each child is a huge advantage.

“Children do not have to worry about the fact they do not understand something and cannot get the classroom time to have it explained. In your homeschool you can spend as much time as is necessary on a topic in order to master it. This creates a more complete education and allows for better recall. In addition to this, the severe stress that many school-going children face is significantly lessened as the home-educated child is not forced to conform to the schedule of the school and can learn at his/her own pace,”said Van der Ems.

But homeschooling comes at great costs to the parents, not just financially but in terms of their time.

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“Parents take on the full responsibility for the education of their children and dealing with self-doubt can be a challenge. There is no school teacher to blame if there are shortcomings. In practice parents are still responsible for their children's education even if they are in a public school and even school education has shortcomings,” said Van der Ems.

A Fourways homeschooling parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “My kids have been homeschooling for more than six years now. Our decision was not taken as a result of the state of education but rather the flexibility it offered. Allowing my wife and I to pursue work and business opportunities. The curriculum and the flexibility of being homeschooled does lend itself to allowing our kids to have the time and space to better grasp key concepts within the curriculum and as a result they are able to deal with the volume of work that needs to be covered in a school year these days.”

Another parent, Angeline Adams, said: “Homeschooling is a challenge. Children need to be disciplined and you need to reach out to them. They need to be in a routine so they know when it's starting time and when we are done. We start school at 8am then we work on two subjects a day. Two hours for one subject then the break for an half an hour. It helped me also for learning how much patience a teacher has to have for teaching. It was a good decision because now you know how to help them when they are struggling. It tells you how much effort the teachers need to put in to get your child to pass.”

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