Tag: Education

Education News: Disruptions planned as more learners return to school

The Department of Basic Education has warned those planning to disrupt the learning schedule this week that their behaviour will not be tolerated. In a strongly-worded statement shared on Monday, the ministry has revealed that dozens of schools have been threatened with closures.

According to The South African, tensions are simmering in some places:

  • School Governing Body (SGB) members have reportedly disrupted 38 schools in Daveyton and Etwatwa so far.
  • Meanwhile, 37 facilities in Tsakane (Gauteng) have also been threatened with closures.
  • Eight schools in KwaThema were also picked out for protest action on Thursday.
  • It’s also understood that the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) will disrupt classes across Gauteng.

Disruptions planned

SGB representatives have been told to operate ‘within the law’ as the second cohort of children returns to school.

“We urge communities to protect schools against individuals and groups that are threatening to close facilities and disrupt learning. Governing Bodies must remember that the closing of schools is a legal function decided by the provincial head of the education department. Members must not act outside of the law.”

“The Council of Education Ministers is on record as having warned that any individual or group who disrupts learning will be reported to the authorities and the Department reserves the right to charge them with violation of the South African Schools Act. Failure to comply could disband some SGBs.” Department of Basic Education statement.

Education News: Leaked document reveals new proposals for 2020 school calendar

Contrary to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on July 23 that the academic year “will go beyond 2020”, it has been proposed that the school year end on December 15 for pupils in grades R to 11, TimesLive reported.

This is among the proposed amendments to the 2020 school calendar, according to a leaked document presented to a Hedcom workshop on July 28. Hedcom comprises the director-general of basic education Mathanzima Mweli and the superintendents-general of education of the nine provinces.

According to one of the suggestions, the 2020 school year “should not be carried over to the first quarter of 2021”.

The workshop was told that a break in school will be needed to separate the third and fourth terms and the suggestion was a week’s holiday from October 26 to 30.

There were 163 remaining days for educators and 156 for pupils.

The new academic year for teachers was planned for January 18 and January 20 for pupils.

However, the new academic year could also be postponed for a week to January 25 as teachers appointed as matric markers may still be busy marking from January 18 to 22.

It was recommended that the matric exams start on November 5 and end on December 15.

Matric marking was expected to take place from January 4 to 22, while February 2 was proposed as the date for the standardisation of marks by exams quality assurer Umalusi.

It was proposed that the ministerial announcement of the results take place on February 22 and the provincial announcements a day later.

The proposed amendments will be shared by a Hedcom subcommittee with the teacher unions on Friday.

Education News: Confusion around the closing of schools

A number of public schools in South Africa have chosen to remain open as they await an official government directive stating their required closure.

However, the Beeld reported that some schools remain open because no official regulations around the announcement have been gazetted.

According to Business Tech, the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) chief executive Paul Colditz said that public schools were left with more questions than answers following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement.

“It is not supported by new regulations, directives or the publication of a new school calendar,” he said.

“In this case decision-makers such as school governing bodies are supposed to assume that the existing directives and calendar remain in effect.”

 Colditz said Fedsas is not able to provide guidance to its members until amended directives and a new school calendar are formally published.

“However, schools are closed from Monday, which means that planning has to take place without any legal framework available. This makes an already challenging situation even more difficult.”

 Although the president indicated in his speech that the decision was based on thorough consultation, the final plan was never shared with all role-players, he said.

We were part of meetings where proposals were discussed but there was no consensus on a final plan.”

A number of grades have also not returned to school since the introduction of restrictions in mid-March, with some grades only set to return as late as September.

TimesLive reported that the Gauteng education department is planning to “possibly” phase-in pupils from seven different grades from August, with grades 3, 6, 10 and 11 anticipated to return on August 24. Grades 4, 5 and 9 are also tentatively scheduled to return on the same date.

 Grades 1, 2 and 8 would return on 31 August 31, the circular said, while no mention is made for Grade R pupils.

Education News: Cosas threatens to close all Private Schools

The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) have indicated their intention to shut down private schools in all parts of the country.

Cosas say that if public schools are forced to close due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, then private schools should not be allowed to operate.

The group have vocally opposed the reopening of schools and have urged the department of basic education to make good on their frequently repeated promise that ‘no child will be left behind’.

Cosas president Douglas Ngobeni said thousands of children would be left behind if private schools were exempt from government’s closure orders.

“The Congress of South Africans Students will be shutting down private schools in all parts of the country,” Ngobeni said.

“This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that only public schools would close. The virus does not care whether your father is a billionaire.”

Ngobeni has not indicated how Cosas intends to shut down private schools, though the assumption is that it would be through organised protest activity, The South African reported.

Last month Cosas shut down the Bloekombos High School in Cape Town, sending 170 matric pupils and the school cooks home, the group also disrupted classes Thandokhulu High School in Mowbray.

Cosas says government’s approach gives private schools an unfair academic advantage.

By the way, private schools were continuing with e-learning while we were sitting at home doing nothing,” Cosas spokesperson Buntu Joseph said.

 “When it comes to that paper, and now we will be closing for four weeks, and they will be continuing with the curriculum, so we feel that there is inequality,” he said.

“So as Congress of South African Students, we are saying that we are going to shut down private schools.”

Education: Scientists say school closure goes against scientific advice and evidence.

Two of the country’s top scientists who serve on the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) have expressed their disappointment at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that public schools will close for four weeks during the Covid-19 storm, saying the decision goes against scientific advice and evidence.

Professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Shabir Madhi, told News24 that the government had not taken the advice of scientists who, he said, agreed that schools should not be closed.

“I think it’s a case of government deciding to take advice from the unions, rather than from the scientists, because the scientific community has been pretty uniform that there is very little reason to close the schools.

“The opening of the schools has got very little to do with the transmission of the virus and if anything, the closure of the schools is going to do more harm than good,” Madhi said.

The science

  • He explained that children were not responsible for Covid-19 transmissions, while teachers were probably not getting infected while at schools.
  • “When it comes to the teachers – when you look at the number of teachers who have been infected as a percentage of the teaching population, it’s no different compared to the general population.
  • “Teachers are simply not getting infected at school. If teachers are getting infected, they’re getting infected like every other member of the community and those infections are taking place in communities,” he said.
  • Whether or not children were at school, adults were the ones who were most likely infecting children.
  • “Most infections in children are probably going to occur because of adults infecting children. Adults in the household who are going to spend more close time with the child are more likely to infect the child than children who are speaking to each other or playing with each other.”

A miscalculation

  • Madhi said he felt the decision to reopen schools was a “miscalculation” as the focus should be on public behaviour.
  • “It’s simply another miscalculation in terms of how the outbreak is evolving, what course it’s going to take and what needs to be done. The focus right now is not about schools, the focus is on changing behaviour of citizens in the country and [getting] them to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions.
  • It simply doesn’t assist when they then decide to allow for 100% of occupancy in taxis, which is sort of a breeding ground to ensure you get rapid transmission of the virus, and then paradoxically they go and shut schools where very little transmission of the virus takes place. So, it’s completely mindless, in fact.”
  • He said he felt as though government was taking the advice of trade unions and taxis over that of scientists.
  • “It seems government is more keen to listen to taxi owners and trade union leaders than to the scientist because the scientists have come out uniformly to say that you shouldn’t have 100% occupancy of taxis, you shouldn’t shut the schools – that’s not what’s causing the transmission of the virus.
  • “Allowing for 100% occupancy will ensure that you actually accelerate transmission of the virus. They’re going against scientific advice that has been provided to them and they’re doing exactly the opposite,” Madhi said.
  • He lambasted decision makers who, he said, falsely believed the virus would disappear in a few months.
  • “I don’t think that the whole issue as to what is going to happen in the next year probably, has filtered through to decision makers.
  • “They are still under this false belief that this virus is going to go away after two to three months, which is not going to happen,” Madhi said.
  • He added that “equally, they’ve been incorrect in believing that the closing of schools is going to get rid of the problem or is in any way going to assist in containing the transmission of the virus. It’s not going to happen”.

Global data

Professor Glenda Gray, a paediatrician and president of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), told News24 that the decision went against existing scientific evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on children.

  • “Keeping children out of school is a sad thing for South Africa,” Gray told News24.
  • Scientists, paediatricians and doctors have considered the epidemic, both at a global and local level and have immense evidence on how Covid-19 affects children.
  • “We believed that it was the best thing for children to be at school because we do not believe that Covid-19 infection poses a risk to their health,” she said.
  • Gray, who is an expert in infectious diseases, HIV and has training in paediatrics, explained that the death of children infected with Covid-19 was usually due to serious underlying conditions.
  • “We’ve been tracking, as paediatricians, the epidemic globally and locally and we’ve been looking at the distribution of infections and the hospitalisations and the mortality. We have seen that death in children is usually related to kids who have severe comorbidities, like cancer or congenital heart disease,” Gray said.

Photo Credit:Unsplash

Education: New Online Boutique High School to launch in January 2021

Private online high school Valenture Institute is launching boutique campuses in South Africa.

The first South African boutique campus will be opening in January 2021 in Newlands and is designed to allow high school learners to interact with their peers while taking live online classes.

“Our boutique private high school campuses provide a unique environment where high-schoolers can interact and collaborate with peers in person while studying in live online classes alongside global classmates,” said Valenture Institute.

Valenture Institute said that learners who study through this online high school get the opportunity to connect and engage with experts from organisations like NASA, Google, and Harvard.

Our learning environment encourages group collaboration where students are able to express their personal dreams, goals and aspirations for their future. Our approach is geared towards furthering our students’ individual growth while always considering real-world application.”

The campuses will provide learners with personalised guidance from learning coaches and a variety of impressive facilities and services.

These include:

  1. Private study pods
  2. On-demand transport to and from campus
  3. Grocery delivery
  4. Laundry
  5. Catered meals
  6. Smoothie bar
  7. Yoga studio and meditation area
  8. Production space to produce your own podcast
  9. Gym and personal trainers
  10. Games room
  11. Consultations with a dietician

Valenture also has an additional Cape Town campus set to launch in Constantia, as well as upcoming Johannesburg campuses in Bryanston and Sandton.

Globally, it is also developing campuses in London and Boston.

Pricing for the Valenture Institute Newlands campus is as follows:

Photo Credit: mybroadband

Education: Schools could close for three weeks.

The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will recommend that cabinet close schools across South Africa as the country’s surge in Covid-19 cases continues.

TimesLive reported that schools could close for three weeks, citing sources within the teacher unions that attended a Department of Education meeting on Wednesday (22 July) night.

The recommendation is set to be tabled with cabinet on Thursday, with either president Cyril Ramaphosa or Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga expected to make a public announcement in the coming days.

 This is largely in line with recommendations made by a group of teachers unions last week, with the unions indicating that schools should reopen at the end of August 2020 unless the situation dictates otherwise.

The unions said that Grade 12 students should be prioritised, with different models to assist them while they are at home should be investigated. The unions said that Grade 12 pupils should return on Monday, 17 August 2020.

“When the debate about reopening of schools began, it was guided by the science that the children were not susceptible to infections and that even if infected, were not infectious, and although they were not likely to infect other children they could infect those with vulnerabilities, especially the elderly, teachers and education workers,” said teachers union, Naptosa.

“The South African situation has disproved this science with many learners having been infected and some even losing their lives. Evolving science also now supports the possibility that there could be an airborne spread of the virus.”

On Tuesday (22 July), Motshekga said that cabinet will make a final announcement on the closure of South African schools.

“After solid consultations in the past week, and after the cabinet’s approval, we will be able to indicate what should happen in the sector in the face of an ongoing spike in (coronavirus) infections,” she said.

“There are also loud voices saying that we should close schools. The debate has become (moot) now in the sense that we have agreed as a sector that we will listen to everybody and take a fair decision.

“We will definitely come with a consensus position as soon as the cabinet has given approval.”

Findings from researchers at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) show that the majority South Africans believe schools should close for the remainder of the year.

The survey sampled 2,500 people on their thoughts around the possible closure of schools in the country, amid a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 people, including teachers and pupils.

 

 

Education: Cabinet to make final decision on closure of schools.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga says that cabinet will make a final pronouncement on the closure of South African schools due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, Business Tech reported.

Speaking in a virtual National Council of Provinces meeting on Tuesday (21 July), Motshekga said that parents and members of the education community have ‘divergent views’ on whether the country’s schools should remain open or closed.

After solid consultations in the past week, and after the cabinet’s approval, we will be able to indicate what should happen in the sector in the face of an ongoing spike in (coronavirus) infections.

“There are also loud voices saying that we should close schools. The debate has become (moot) now in the sense that we have agreed as a sector that we will listen to everybody and take a fair decision.

We will definitely come with a consensus position as soon as the cabinet has given approval.”

Education union Naptosa has published the details of a meeting it held with the Department of Basic Education last week, including the general consensus reached by the country’s major teacher unions.

It further outlined a number of proposals, which were agreed to with other unions, around the closing of schools:

  1. Schools should be closed with immediate effect to allow the peak and winter to pass.
  2. The system should use this time to attend to all outstanding issues, including, but not limited to, the provision of water, the building of toilets and additional classes and providing the required number of teachers;
  3. Schools should reopen at the end of August 2020 unless the situation dictates otherwise;
  4. Education departments should provide teachers with the necessary tools to work from home and prepare work for the reopening of schools and return of learners;
  5. Grade 12s should be prioritised and different modes to assist them while they are at home should be investigated. Grade 12s should return on Monday, 17 August 2020;
  6. The DBE and stakeholders should discuss the curriculum post this calendar year, focusing on reading for the remaining months of 2020;
  7. The Department of Higher Education and Training should be engaged to consider late registration for first years in 2021;
  8. All stakeholders should focus on advocacy campaigns, educating the nation about this invisible enemy but also urging them to follow all precautionary measures, including staying at home.

Education: Thousands of Gauteng teachers ditch school

The Gauteng Education Department is looking to employ “young and dynamic” teachers after thousands of educators in the province have applied to either work from home or exit the system indefinitely for fear of Covid-19.

As of 15 of July, the department had received 3,699 applications from teachers who are above the age of 60 and cannot report for duty due to comorbidities.

Of these, 2,117 are from primary schools, 1,193 are from secondary schools and 389 from special needs schools.

“It’s a huge number,” Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said.

He said the department is working around the clock to authorise those who can stay at home and those who can continue to work.

The total number of concessions we’ve received is 4,100, of which 48 are working from our offices and 206 who are working as teachers but are not school-based,” he explained.

“In terms of those who are school-based, it is 3,414 and in terms of the office staff that are assisting in school we’ve received 432 applications.”

Meanwhile, only 658 applications have been approved so far.

“You can see that we need to replace the educators in Gauteng who say they don’t want to come back with almost 3,620 educators with young, dynamic new educators.”

Lesufi said they have already started the process of looking for new teachers and encourages young people to grab the opportunities.

Schools affected by Covid-19

Meanwhile, of the 2,131 public schools in the province, 1,977 were risk-free and never had a Covid-19 incident or reported it.

“It’s only 154 schools that we had to close and open because they reported incidents of Covid-19,” he said, adding they were decontaminated before they could be reopened.

Out of 129 special schools, 25 had reported incidents, while out of 713 independent schools which are subsidised by the government but mainly private, only 57 had people who tested positive.

In the province, there are 1,527 people who contracted the virus within the education system of which 402 were learners, 977 educators and 99 administration staff.

Also, general assistance staff such as cleaners and gardeners accounts to 44 who tested positive.

Meanwhile, there are five youth brigade members, who do the screening in schools, who have contracted the Coronavirus.

School attendances

According to Lesufi, Grade R has the lowest form of attendance; only 23% of learners came back since the reopening of schools.

“The majority of learners preferred to learn at home,” Lesufi explained.

Only 53% of Grade 6 learners went back to school, 58% in Grade 7 and Grade 11 is sitting at 61%.

According to Lesufi, the highest attendance is at Grade 12 at 70%.

“It’s still worrying. We can’t account for almost 30% of Grade 12 learners who are not attending schools in Gauteng as of now.

It is something we are working very hard to rectify because it has implications in terms of the skill base of the province but most importantly in terms of transition to higher education.”

Meanwhile, the average attendance of teachers in Grade R is 69%, 71% in Grade 6, 75% in Grade 7, 74% in Grade 11, and 76% in Grade 12.

“I think we are very fortunate that we have 70% of learners that are attending Grade 12, so the 76% attendance of educators slightly makes us accommodate the number of available learners,” he said.

So, if more learners can come back you will see that we’re going to struggle in terms of teacher population.”

Substitute teachers

In response to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question, Motshekga said as of 23 June, 16,168 educators had declared comorbidities.

“The processing of applications is ongoing, and therefore the numbers are not final,” the Minister said.

According to the response, the number of educators who work from home will be finalised once the process of approving and granting all concessions has been completed.

Motshekga said a substitute will be provided where needed and will depend on the extent of work the educator at home can accomplish.

“This may range from a fully qualified substitute to fully replace an educator at home to a teacher aid or assistant that will act under the guidance of the educator at home, or another educator present at school.”

Education: Schooling to resume while teacher unions await final decision.

The impasse between Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and teacher unions over the unions’ demand of a total shutdown of schooling due to the spiralling Covid-19 pandemic is set to continue this week, IOL reported.

According to teacher union leaders, Motshekga promised that she would present their demands to the cabinet, the nine provincial MECs for education and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) before making any final decision on the matter.

By Sunday evening, union leaders said Motshekga had not responded to their call following her consultation with cabinet on Saturday.

SAOU executive director Chris Klopper urged teachers to report for duty while waiting for Motshekga’s report. Klopper, however, said his union was not in favour of the closure saying Motshekga must provide “scientific evidence” that it was in the best interest of teachers and learners to close schools.

Other unions, however, were still hopeful that Motshekga would heed their call. Naptosa’s executive director Basil Manuel said his union was still also waiting for Motshekga to respond.

“It will be normal schooling on Monday until the Minister reacts to our demands. We did not expect her to announce that there will be no schooling on Monday. Teachers still have various things to do before closing the schools. We are expecting her response this week,”  Manuel said.

National Teachers Union president Alan Thompson said their meeting with Motshekga did not have an “outcome”.

Thompson said most unions had unanimously stated to Motshekga that schools should be closed with immediate effect.

“We also asked the Minister to assist teachers with devices to allow them to have non-contact with their learners. They can provide teachers with data or laptops so they must continue teaching while the peak is continuing,” Thompson said.

He, however, said priority should be given to Grade 12’s saying they should be allowed to return to school early after the peak had subsided.

According to Thompson, teachers also raised concerns about a number of schools in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga which were unable to open due to lack of water and running toilets.

‘Those were unable to open as they were not Covid-19 compliant. They had no personal protective equipment. We told the Minister she should provide water tanks and mobile toilets to the schools. We offered to assist them with learning to allow them to sit for exams. Some of the affected pupils are Grade 12’s,” Thompson said.

He said that Motshekga had promised to reply to their demands after consulting with cabinet, the nine provincial MECs for education and the National Coronavirus Command Council.

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