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DBE calls on the Command Council to reduce social distance measure in schools

Basic education Minister Angie Motshekga Picture: Dumisani Dube

Basic education Minister Angie Motshekga Picture: Dumisani Dube

Published Jan 26, 2022

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At the opening of the annual Basic Education Sector Lekgotla on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said that the department had proposed to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to reduce social distancing measures in classrooms.

“As a government, we are mulling over options to mitigate against losing contact teaching time in 2022 and beyond. We have recommended to the National Coronavirus Command Council to reduce the social distancing measures in our classrooms. The ideal (situation) is to have all our learners receiving contact teaching time at the same time to mitigate against drop-outs, increase retention rates and prevent failures,” said Motshekga.

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The Theme for 2022 Lekgotla is: “Equipping Learners with Knowledge and Skills for a Changing World in the Context of Covid-19”.

Since the beginning of Covid-19 in 2020, most schools, especially public schools have been conducting rotational learning because of the adherence to the 1m social distancing requirement in the classroom.

According to research, the education sector lost at least 50% of curriculum time due to rotational timetabling and intermittent closures.

Research shows that learners from disadvantaged communities are more likely to drop out of the schooling system due to rotational timetabling as they miss out on routines and school services such as feeding schemes and health services.

Since the beginning of the 2022 academic year, there have been mounting calls for primary and high school pupils to return to full-time attendance for the 2022 academic year.

Last week, the Equal Education (EE) ssued a statement urging the DBE to develop clear plans to end the rotational timetable system and return all learners across the country to school full-time.

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According to EE, the impact of these disruptions was greater for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds because their access to printed materials, online learning resources and other learning interventions was limited.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had also written to the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the termination of rotational learning in primary schools.

“The Commission holds that rotational learning has a long-lasting negative impact on learning outcomes for children and, as the Ministerial Advisory Committee advice states, that ‘the harms of learners attending school on a rotational basis - specifically the severe cognitive, nutritional, and psychosocial costs - exceed the benefits of reduced Covid-19 infections from smaller class sizes’,” said SAHRC spokesperson Gushwell Brooks.

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The annual Basic Education Sector Lekgotla is set to end on Friday, January 28, 2022.

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