Basic Education seeks other ways of dealing with social distancing, slates learner rotation system as ineffective

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The Department of Basic Education is considering other ways of dealing with social distancing in classrooms. The rotation system where learners have been going to school once or twice a week has proven ineffective with some learners losing two weeks at a time in some schools.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says they have had to also cut out some parts of the curriculum because of the reduced contact time. Motshekga says they might copy some schools who are now using body screens to keep the same number of learners in the class.

“We are looking also at other measures. Other big schools for instance are using body screens not distancing because physical distancing is very expensive for us because it means we have to cut classes in half. At a school where DG went in KZN, they are using screens. It is the same class of 35 and they are using screens. You just manage the movement of learners, so which means they able to have a normal timetable which is our biggest challenge now.”

The National Teachers Union (Natu) says the current rotation system in schools is compromising the quality of education. It has emerged that in some schools learners only go to school after two weeks.

Natu president, Allan Thompson says the system needs urgent attention. “Teachers are not happy with the current arrangement of seeing learners once after two weeks of teaching, learners one week and they come back after three weeks. That is definitely compromising the curriculum coverage and is also compromising the quality of learners produced for the next grade. They need to prioritise infrastructure in our schools.”

But, teacher union Naptosa says the system just needs to be refined.

President Basil Manuel says the rotation system is currently the only method that can keep schools safe.

He says the Education Assistants, who will start working in schools next year, will also help to maintain social distancing.

“The rotation system is working at the moment but I think we need to refine it and some of the choices we have where some schools have one week on and one week off, we are now learning that that might not be the best idea, but the one-day-on one-day-off is working. Remember we have no choice because of social distancing and COVID-19. I want to caution the schools that want to bring people back even if they don’t have enough space.”