The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has instructed the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to intensify its support to learners and continuously monitor and evaluate health and safety practices at schools as the majority of learners and educators make their return this week.
The committee was today briefed on the amended school calendar, the department’s risk-adjusted differentiated approach and the effects of this on the curriculum and assessment.
The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, commended the department for ensuring that 10 million learners return to school despite the large number of challenges that the department continues to face during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of these challenges, she said, relates to fee-paying schools which need to take into consideration the financial positions of households where parents have lost their jobs during this time.
The safety of learners and educators should be a top priority for the department whose responsibility is to ensure that schools adhere to the prescribed health and safety measures. The committee is of the view that the department needs to ensure that schools are correctly equipped as this will assist in alleviating the heightened anxiety felt by parents during this time. The department is further to deal decisively with those schools that do not adhere to health and safety measures.
The committee questioned the department on the application process of home-schooling and cautioned the department against processes that will frustrate and force parents to send their children to school, amidst the Covid-19-related anxiety and fears. The committee told the department that it is its responsibility to ensure that learners who are unable to return to school are provided with the necessary support and material to continue learning from home. Specific reference was made to learners with disabilities and special educational needs.
Questioning the department on the preparatory work done with institutions of higher learning to ensure that matric learners do not have problems with enrollment next year, the committee was told that the department had met with the Universities Forum to ensure that processes are synchronised and learners are not disadvantaged when registering at institutions of higher learning.
The committee had further questioned the department on the statistics related to the number of Covid-19 cases in the education sector, the support provided to learners including catch-up programmes, the number of teachers that need to be replaced as a result of comorbidities, and the number of schools that are unable to open due to structural challenges. The department’s Director-General, Mr Mweli Mathanzima, has committed himself to provide the committee with extensive feedback on these issues during the next meeting.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.