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Only one in nine Cape primary schools able to cater for a daily attendance of 100%

Learners will once again have to attend school on rotational basis. Picture: Henk Kruger

Learners will once again have to attend school on rotational basis. Picture: Henk Kruger

Published Jan 20, 2022

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AS little as one in nine primary schools in the Western Cape can accommodate 100% capacity in classrooms as calls mount for pupils to return to school full time.

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This week more than a million learners in the Western Cape return to schools for the beginning of the 2022 academic year.

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, briefed the media and announced the continuation of Covid-19 protocols in schools which included rotational timetables for high school pupils and a 100% attendance for primary schools.

Schools across the country have to continue to adhere to the 1m social distancing rule. And of the Western Cape’s 984 primary schools, only around 12% – 118 – are able to adhere to this rule and, thus, are unable to implement the government’s 100% attendance regulation.

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A primary school teacher who spoke to Weekend Argus on the basis of anonymity, felt that this announcement sent out mixed messages.

“Firstly, having a rotational timetable has no benefit for the learners in the long run, because the truth is they end up learning less. We as teachers lose out on teaching time,” she said.

“Yet they amend the number of spectators permitted at school sport venues? How does this make sense? In classes you can't teach kids who are with you every day at normal capacity, but at sports events you are allowing random spectators in?”

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The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had also expressed concerns over this announcement calling for the scrapping of the 1m rule at schools and a full return to school.

The department’s spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “In 2021, there continued to be significant teaching time losses, as a result of rotational timetables.”

Education expert from Stellenbosch University, Nic Spaull, also called for the end of the rotational model, saying its continued implementation could potentially result in a “lost generation” of learners.

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Spaull said based on projections, the average Grade 3 child in June knew about as much as the average Grade 3 child of 2019 did.

Parents have also expressed their disappointment in the continued rotational timetable.

Daphne Clayton, from Mitchells Plain, told Weekend Argus that the rotational timetable not only puts pressure on parents who have to adapt to changing curriculum, but also takes away from valuable family time.

“How do we as parents know if we are teaching our children properly on those days that they are learning from at home? This is not a win for us or our children,” she said.

The WCED confirmed that it too had been inundated with complaints from parents wanting the rotation system to end.

WCED has expressed their concerns over placements. Picture: Jacques Naude

Motshekga also urged parents to make sure that their children were attending school.

This comes after the department, submitted to Parliament its Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill this week.This bill seeks to make amendments to the Schools Act.

One of these proposed amendments is for a year jail time to be meted out to parents who prevent a child from going to school without just cause.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said this was one of the positive steps in the right direction.

Makaneta explained that the bill, if signed, would not only look after the well-being of children, but will also help with the dropout rate.

“Without accountability we won't know where these learners disappeared to, but with this bill parents or guardians will be contacted within 24 hours of the child being absent for three or more days and if they cannot give a valid reason, they should as parent face the consequence of their child losing out on education.”

Speaking around the subject of unplaced pupils, Motshekga urged parents to allow the various provinces to allocate unplaced pupils at schools which had space available. A presentation by the department indicated that 19 783 pupils were unplaced in the Western Cape.

Yesterday, WCED said it was rying to reduce the number of unplaced pupils. For Grade 1, 469 pupils need to be placed, and for Grade 8, 2 620 pupils.

“We are fighting a moving target given that every day, we are receiving more late applications of learners. Over 32 000 late applications have been received thus far,” she said.

However, ANC Education Shadow MEC, Muhammad Khalid Sayed, said this problem could only be pinned on the WCED itself.

“In the past, the WCED failed to spend close to a billion rand of education resources which were uncommitted and surrendered to the Treasury. These were funds that could have been used to augment school capacity and employ more teachers.

“The problem is not necessarily insufficient resources, but it is the poor planning and management of scarce resources and lack of foresight on the part of the WCED,” he said.

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