In a statement released on Thursday, the Department of Basic Education said that it was concerned by the loss in learning which has happened as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Adding that the delay to the start of the 2021 academic year would have a last negative impact in the long term.
We have now begun to measure Covid-19 related learning losses in South Africa by comparing how much children learned in 2020 with how much they learned in a normal school year before that. These measures indicate that between 50% and 75% of a normal year's worth of learning was lost during 2020
The department's director for research, Stephen Taylor added that it is likely that learners across other grades have been similarly affected. In order to salvage what is left of the academic year, the department proposed that the third term school holiday break, scheduled for 1 October to be cancelled.
However, the department's proposal has since been met with disagreement by a collective of teacher's unions and school governing bodies across the country citing the need for learners to take a break and lower Covid-19 infection risk.
To justify the proposed cancellation of the upcoming school break, the department also pointed out that based on its current data, they predict lower outcomes for high school learners if they fail to catch up to pre-pandemic trajectories.
"Assuming that the schooling system is unable to successfully catch up to pre-pandemic trajectories, they predict Grade 12 outcomes may be expected to be lower over time. In the long run, the learning losses in primary school may lead to an increase in dropout when these children reach Grades 10, 11 and 12.
The department also pointed out that this loss in teaching and learning would have a greater impact on poorer communities due to their inability to access remote learning.
The impact on early learning for children attending ECD centres is also likely to have been significant since attendance rates at ECD centres have also dropped considerably since the pandemic. There is now evidence from the NIDS-CRAM survey that more school-aged children are not attending school than usual.
— Dep. Basic Education (@DBE_SA) August 19, 2021