The Department of Basic Education says it is pinning its hopes on the opening of online schools to reduce pressure on school admissions.

Thousands of learners are often left stranded at the beginning of the year when schools re-open, particularly in Gauteng due to the shortage of schools in the province.

Director-General Mathanzima Mweli says the department is also working with provinces and private education providers to come up with regulations and policies that they can follow to open online public schools.

A number of private education providers have been opening online schools since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. One such school was opened in June by Curro Holdings.

Curro Online takes Grade 4 to Grade 10 learners and will also cater for matric in two years’ time. Their fees range from R3 680 to R4 200 per month.

Curro Online Business Manager Jay Paul says there has been a positive response from parents since they opened.

“As COVID-19 continued to impact the country, we identified a need with parents that were struggling, especially those that were working from home to juggle their career and kids’ education and they were looking for an online program that would offer access to full-day class time with online teachers and because many parents were concerned about sending children during the pandemic.”

Curro online much like other schools offers a full day school experience with live classrooms. There are also recorded lessons and access to various online materials.

Online schools to be opened

The Department of Basic Education says it is also planning on opening online schools in the public sector. Mweli, says they have been working with online education providers and are formulating policies to regulate it.

He says that online education is gaining in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it could be the answer to overcrowding and school shortages.

“There’s a team lead by Mr. Tlhabane the Chief Director of ICT working with a branch that is responsible for schools and they are working with provinces to finalise policies and guidelines so that we promote online schools to run, yes we are also going to have them but at the moment they are private.  This is the future and it’s something we are working towards as well.”

Homeschooling

While parents had initially shown interest in homeschooling, it appears that many have not followed through. Some parents have expressed reservations that they would have to teach children themselves while others have expressed frustration at the requirement to register with provincial education departments who did not seem accessible.

Mweli says it appears that parents have abandoned that plan.

“We haven’t seen an increase in that. We thought we’d see an increase last year after the pandemic because of the options we gave to parents. We think that also discouraged them because they had various options to still get their children learning from the schools they are registered with but being at home.”

Homeschooling organisations, however, say many more parents are homeschooling than the education department is aware of. Parents get curriculum and other support from the organisations they enroll with.

What you need to know about homeschooling: