South African Basic Education Department Asked To Stop Rotational Learning Imposed By COVID-19

A growing number of organizations are requesting the Basic Education Department to end rotational learning since school children were missing classes as a result of the policy.

Last week, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said rotational learning would continue in January as part of the school’s one-meter social distance initiative.

This method allows a group of pupils from one class to attend classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and another group to attend classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This means a group of pupils attends school three times a week, while another attends school twice a week.

According to Motshekga, “rotational time-tabling” would continue as views of public health experts were being considered through the Ministerial Advisory Committee and the National Coronavirus Command Council.

As new COVID-19 cases were declining and restrictions were being eased, organizations such as Equal Education and Legal Resources Centre have asked the basic education, health, and cooperative governance ministers to reconsider this policy as learners are missing classes due to rotational learning.

As an education expert at Stellenbosch University, Prof. Sarah Howie told Xinhua that rotational learning has a bad effect on children of all ages, especially in the foundation phase.

According to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) released in 2019, 78 percent of grade four learners couldn’t read for meaning and understanding in the country.

Rotational learning would further exacerbate this issue, she said. “It has a major impact on reading, children are behind. We were four years behind before COVID-19 and this has worsened.”

According to Howie, the gap between South Africa and developed nations in terms of education standards has grown.

“The problems that we had before the pandemic have now grown much bigger. This means that children don’t have a strong foundation. They have to remove the idea of rotational learning,” she said, adding that the department should seriously consider implementing mobile classrooms so that all students can learn.

Since the pandemic occurred, thousands of children dropped out of school, Howie mentioned that rotational learning might increase the failure rate and dropouts. The policy might also worsen inequalities since it was affecting children from working-class families.

“It’s inevitable, I worry that we are a terrible inequality society, what we see is a digital divide growing bigger. Unless we get behind children, we will stay in an unequal society, we have to protect children. We need children full-time at school,” she added.

The teacher unions in the public sector have called for a full return to the school of all students.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union said learners had “lost considerable learning time due to lockdowns and rotational schooling put in place to ensure social distancing to keep the pandemic at bay.”

“We would like to see learners returning to classes all at once,” said General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke.

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