Virtual learning launched to ensure EC matrics keep pace
In an effort to minimize further disruptions to the matric curriculum, the provincial department of education on Tuesday launched its first virtual learning lesson, focusing on mathematics.
President Cyril Ramaphosa closed schools last week until April 14, but added that a number of steps must be taken to ensure education is not compromised and each province, district, circuit and school must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented.
Acting director of e-learning Lutho Kota said the programme had been in the pipeline for months and would have been rolled out in April but in light of Covid-19 and the subsequent shutdown, the department felt it necessary to launch now.
This in an effort to assist Grade 12 pupils who are set to begin their midyear exams in 57 days.
“We are for now focusing on Grade 12 in response to the virus, so last week was mainly training for staff and demonstration lessons. We're now working with a team of subject advisers, subject planners and lead teachers from the province [who are compiling and will conduct lessons],” Kota said.
Kota said the virtual lessons will cover topics meant to be covered in the second term through one-hour lessons, which will be broadcast virtually to pupils between 10am and 12pm daily, along with a lesson focused on physical science.
The lessons require pupils to own a smartphone, tablet or laptop and pupils will have to visit an app store of their choice, where they will search for the free VLC app and download it.
Once the app is downloaded pupils will follow a link that has been provided through Khawuleza News, a communications platform the department uses to send information and updates about the virtual learning.
She admitted that virtual learning came with a host of challenges, especially for low-income pupils because not every home has a computer, tablet and internet access. Some pupils do not even have smartphones, she said.
“We are aware of the connectivity challenge and for now data is required for them to be able to log in but we are working on mitigating those challenges with our other stakeholders, to make those lessons freely available.
"Also, in instances where they are unable to log in for the lesson, the lessons will be uploaded as audio and will be available on selected community radio stations,” she said.
The radio stations are scattered across all districts in the province.
However, Nelson Mandela Bay pupils seemed unaware of the virtual classes. Yolanda Mongo from the Matric Academy of Excellence in Zwide said she had received no notification about any e-learning and that she was creating revision for herself through old exam and test papers.
Tsosoloso Moeng from Pearson High School said she had not heard about the department's programme but that her school was using the Google Class app for physical science lessons.
Namisa Poswa from Dalindyebo Senior Secondary School said their principal had created a Whatsapp group for Grade 12 pupils and had informed them about the virtual classes.
Department spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said they have been conducting advocacy and profiling with information sent to all districts and principals as well as using social networks.
MEC Fundile Gade said the importance of these classes would be to close the gap between the first term and the second term of the academic calendar by providing classes to pupils while at home.
“As the department we have heeded the call. We do understand that this period is not permanent and we have to improvise while our pupils are at home,” Gade said.