Learners faced with data, access issues amid lockdown

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Since the lockdown began some two months ago, millions of South African learners have been forced to receive their education through screens, via eLearning platforms, radio or TV as normal classroom learning is not an option.

The Department of Basic Education has also teamed up with SABC and introduced learning programmes on SABC TV and radio stations to ensure that learners stay abreast with their school work, since there is uncertainty on when schools will reopen.

Like any new system this has come with its own challenges. Kuhle Hlanula (17), a grade 12 learner, has experienced some of these issues – as living in an informal settlement comes with having limited resources and also heightens the challenges in the quest of an education.

Hlanula says, “Data is a big issue for us, because right now, our parents can’t go to work so there isn’t any money so we can’t get data. Those with data can access the internet and take the notes that we’ve been given and share with us – so that we are able to complete the assignments given to us and write notes…”

And those on TV are too fast – they hurry to the next topic without you having understood the previous topic fully and what the solutions were to the problem you were facing. You are then forced to ask someone who may understand to help you. Even so, that person will not be able to assist you the way your teacher would,” added Hlanula.

Parents have also felt the challenges. Hlanula’s father Mncedisi says learners are in need of assistance and parents often find it difficult to fill their educator’s roles.

He says, “There are quite a number of them because kids have to keep on asking questions pertaining to their school work from us. You have to answer questions, most of the questions one could not answer because I had never been as far as Grade 12 myself but I try. I even had to refer to some of my other educational programmes and she managed to get some of the answers to some of the questions…:”

On Monday SABC Education launched a 24-hour channel that provides content from the Department of Education to assist learners. The channel will broadcast content currently available on SABC One, Two and Three – as well as some archive material.

SABC Television General Manager David Makunyane says the channel is not yet free to air – but can be accessed on YouTube and Digital Terrestrial Television platforms.

Makunyane says, “With all the learners being under lockdown it has affected them and their learning. So this is a platform for them to catch up with their curriculum. It is in partnership with education, so it is curriculum based content…”

“The SABC Education Channel will be available on Digital terrestrial television (DTT) – if you have a smart TV you can tune the aerial connected to you TV, and find our DTT channels. It is already streaming on the SABC education website as a YouTube channel,” added Makunyane.

Despite the challenges, the department has managed to reach about 35 million people in its partnership with TV and radio stations that have carried educational content for learners.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the department has worked with different platforms and broadcasters in all official languages to ensure maximum reach.

Motshekga says: “We partnered with 123 radio stations, with six different television channels and in total those channels reach about 35 million people. The initiative was really to put in place an intervention to bring curriculum lessons to households across the country to assist learners as schools remain closed. This was in a bid to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on basic education.”

“In addition to the 13 radio stations of the SABC, which broadcast in all official languages, we had 110 community radio stations that were also involved in carrying curriculum content on a daily basis,” says Motshekga.

Meanwhile, teacher unions have expressed concern over the amplification in the level of inequalities faced by some learners.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) says despite Government’s efforts, learners in rural areas will be negatively affected in their academic progression.

Pre-Conditions for Schools re-opening by SABC Digital News