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Urgent need to plug gaps in education caused by pandemic

Image: 123RF/ paylessimages

The true costs of the pandemic and the associated lockdowns are slowly emerging. One of the most concerning is the blow dealt to education, with school pupils and tertiary institution students across the world having lost out on social and educational  fundamentals.

This is especially concerning in SA where even before Covid-19 struck  learners were performing poorly by international standards in core subjects such as maths, science and language.

Slow improvement in these subjects was wiped out when South African public school pupils missed about three quarters of a school year over the course of 2020 and 2021.

During this time, schools were totally closed for a number of months and later operated on a platoon system designed to ensure social distancing.

While pupils at affluent schools were for the most part able to continue classes via remote learning, those at poorer and rural schools fell far behind and there is a real danger that this will adversely affect their educational progress and future prospects.

Following on from research done by the Western Cape education department, a team of researchers led by University of Stellenbosch economist Servaas van der Berg conducted a wide-ranging survey at schools in the province and found there had been acute deterioration in pupils’ prowess in mathematics as well as language.

This was especially the case for pupils at schools where the medium of instruction changed from home language after grade 3.

Given the extent of the research, it is likely that a similar situation exists at schools in this province and in the rest of the country.

This spells disaster. Educationists warn that if schoolchildren do not master these “gateway” subjects in early grades, their entire schooling will be compromised, with resultant dire effect on their futures.

What is needed is urgent, decisive  intervention by the education authorities who need to take a hard look at the syllabus and empower teachers to do away with the frills and add-ons to focus on helping learners catch up the basics.

SA cannot afford to lose a generation to the pandemic.



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