Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says only 70% of the curriculum will be covered this year and it may be a tall order. The reality is that hundreds of thousands of pupils in Grade 1 to 5, and 8, 9, and 10 have not been in class since the end of March.

For many, academic activities came to an abrupt end after President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed the national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa announces closure of schools: 

The department has been at pains to emphasise that a ‘pass one, pass all’ policy won’t be applied to the 2020 academic year.

Grade 10 learner from Tafelkop in Limpopo, Mpho Choma, has been at home for the last four months. The last time Choma was in a classroom was in late March. He says he spends his time doing house chores including herding cattle and fetching water from the river.

Mpho is not the only learner in the Choma household. His two sisters in Grade 2 and 4 have been at home since March.

Parent Rosina Choma says they are not sure if any of the children will pass this year.

While the Choma family is concerned about their children’s academic performance, Basic Education is adamant that learners will be assessed before being promoted.

“We want to clarify that there will not be a ‘pass one, pass all’ approach when it comes to the completion of the academic year under the circumstances brought to us by COVID-19. The department is going to work hard to ensure that learners are assessed on the basis of the work they have done. We expect each and every learner to participate in learning. If you are at home the parent or caregiver will have the responsibility of ensuring that the child is learning and that there is evidence of the work that the child is doing so that we are able to conduct an assessment at the end of the year to issue a report accordingly,” says Department of Basic Education’s Elijah Mhlanga.

The department expects parents to come on board, however, some caregivers like Rose Nkomo say this is an impossible task.

Basic Education wants the academic year to be completed on the 15 December.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) fears pupils will be overburdened. “We cannot allow a situation where the learners are going to be overloaded or even be pressured to recover when it is impossible to recover everything. We have got to look at the adjusted teaching plans by also trimming the curriculum further to take into account the most important concepts that have to be learned,” says Sadtu General-Secretary Mugwena Maluleke.

In May, a trimmed and revised curriculum was endorsed by the council for education ministers.