When the lockdown started our children were busy finishing writing their March exams and it was the end of their school term. Government/public schools are facing a hard time as children are not learning anything except the matric learners who are studying on WhatsApp. What about the others grades in public schools?
In private or independent schools learners from grades R to 11 are also using WhatsApp to study or are studying online. Other private schools circulated newsletters to parents notifying them that they should provide their children with smartphones, laptops or computers and internet access in order for them to be able to continue with their studies. This happened after the long weekend of Good Friday. They also urged parents to continue paying school fees and as they depend on it for salaries, school maintenance etc. This is a problem. What about the costs of the internet and those who don’t have smart phones or any means of getting involved? Private schools have daily lessons from 9am-2pm for some grades and from 10am -4pm for others.
One parent whose child attends a private in town said the school has issued a circular that the learners will attend classes three days a week in two shifts: from Monday to Wednesday and Thursday to Saturday. She said her child is in grade 3 and they are studying online via WhatsApp and “I am assisting her after work and during weekend so my dear of her not going to school is that if she gers infected the school will not be responsible”. The parents said “if the government is for real why can’t they open the parliament and then we can all be free to take any responsibility for the infection.”
The problem with online education is that as a parent you are also learning with your child, you need to be there throughout the lessons so that you can assist after lessons with homework given. This takes up a lot of time, because you can’t do your daily chores and everything has to wait for the weekend. As we put our children’s education first, we have no choice but to support them. But I am very sad for public school learners who are not doing anything, they can’t even study at home and all they do is play.
Other children said “why can’t the government provide all schools with tablets so that we can all learn to study at home just like other private schools do”. Learners said the government must programme the tablets for all school subjects and a dictionary, so that way they won’t be misused for other things.
When the announcement of reopening of schools for grade 12 and 7 in June was made, there was fear. A 13 years old boy who is in grade 7, said they have three grade 7 classes and they are 97 in total. He was not sure how they would manage to sit with physical distance in class as three of them used to share one table. At school they divided them into groups of 26 per class and all the subject teachers of all grades shared a responsibility. They sanitised them in the morning and provided two cloth face masks which they wash and started cooking for them from the second week of the re-opening.
Mothers are worried about the future and the health of their kids but as the Minister of Education stated that the other grades will be phased in July and August, the fears grow stronger that the virus will be picked up and the younger grade kids have to be at school. A grade 12 learner’s mother was very afraid for the future of her child; “my child is in matric and I am hoping to see him at college next year but when things are like this, my son will never be able to matriculate this year. Why can’t they let matrics go to school as their future will be destroyed and most children won’t think of going back to school next year as this year was just a waste for them.”
Coronavirus is a serious concern to parents as its reported that in the mines there are many cases of coronavirus since the workers went back to work. Some schools are also closing because some learners and teachers hav been infected with the virus. It still brings fear to our children and their families as one infection leads to the whole family being infected. Families ask if their children are safe, and they feel the government is testing situations by risking lives. Some parents say their kids will go to school whilst others say they won’t go to school. The recent changes in phasing in grades is buying time to try and address these concerns, but the President announced that while public schools will be closed, private schools are still learning.
It is a different and hard time where we have to cope.
This article was submitted on 27 July 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.