Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga

School closures reverse gains made in education

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Aug 30, 2021

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Cape Town - The closure of schools and disruptions to teaching and learning owing to the Covid-19 pandemic have reversed several gains made in education over the past 20 years, especially in disadvantaged communities.

About 80% of learning time was lost last year, and at least 50% has been lost so far in 2021.

This while first-intake into grades R and 1 recorded 25 000 fewer learners this year than there should be, while there are 10 000 fewer children aged 7 to 14 in schools.

According to Stellenbosch University's Education economist Professor Martin Gustafsson, disruptions were slowing down learning.

“The World Bank has estimated that globally learners whose schooling was disrupted by the pandemic will earn on average 5% less in their lifetimes.

“Losses will be larger or smaller for certain groups.

“Even with the best catch-up programmes, it is now considered near impossible to recover from the learning losses.

“To illustrate the South African challenge, the worst impact of the pandemic on matric results will probably not be felt now but in 10 years,” said Gustafsson.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Sunday said the Council of Education Ministers agreed not to interfere with the remainder of the school calendar.

“The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal continue to record high community infections, resulting in the temporary closures of schools.

“Other than this, the system has remained stable and functional, despite persisting learning losses attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Motshekga.

About 40 Western Cape Schools had to be temporarily closed for decontamination in the past week and more than 900 pupils tested positive for Covid-19.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said she agreed with Motshekga that calls to close all schools were unwise.

“We will continue to address these on a case by case basis, to keep our staff and learners safe.”

Motshekga said she was also concerned about the alarming rate of teenage pregnancies which also contributed to the worrying drop-out rate that the department was fighting so hard to reduce.

The latest National Income Dynamics Study – NIDS-CRAM had also estimated that at least 500 000 South African pupils dropped out of school in the past 16 months.

“What we know at this point is that learners with weak learning foundations, begin to drop-out in more significant numbers, as they progress through the Grades. This creates an urgent need to recover learning that has been lost,” said Motshekga.

Cape Times

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