By SIFISO DLAMINI | 2020-06-23
WITH the proposed date for schools’ reopening fast approaching, the ministry of education and training remains optimistic that the calendar year can still be salvaged as the school system requires 65 days to cover the lost time.
This was in response to a motion without notice by the House of Assembly requiring the ministry to indicate its readiness for school reopening amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Members of Parliament had voiced their concerns regarding the reopening of schools taking into account the increasing number of cases in the country which would expose the learners to contracting the virus.
The MPs requested the ministry to consider moving the date further forward to August after the severe cold has passed.
In response, Minister Lady Howard-Mabuza said they have held several engagements with representatives from all schools including SNAT and the Eswatini Principals Association (EPA). She stated the ministry further undertook a needs assessment survey for all schools which has informed planning and resources required to respond to COVID-19 in schools.
She said the required budget for school reopening amounting to E56 million has been submitted to cabinet as well as the engagement of a number of partners to support the reopening of schools.
The money will be used in buying PPE and other material that will make learning possible in the midst of the pandemic.
She added in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry has prepared a COVID-19 Framework and Standard Operating Procedure for the entire school sector.
With regards to the adjustment of the school calendar the minister indicated they were of the view that using the remaining school days, holidays and some Saturdays would contribute to more teaching and learning time as well as the recovery of the lost time due to the ongoing lockdown. "A recent analysis indicates that the school system requires approximately 65 days to recover the lost time," she said.
She indicated the planned date for the ministry in consultation with the ministry of health and other relevant stakeholders for the reopening of Form Five and tertiary institutions remains July 6, 2020 which would be followed by Grade Seven and Form Three two weeks later.
She also insisted that the reopening of the rest of the classes would be guided by lessons learnt after the reopening of Form Fives.
She said in addition, the ministry has also engaged the Exams Council of Eswatini regarding the postponement of examinations under its control such as Grade Seven, JC and some subjects at Form Five level.
She added the ministry had been assured by the ministry of health that all the necessary support would be given.
Howard-Mabuza said the rationale was around ensuring that learners were competent and were able to catch up and well prepared for the en-of-year examinations.
She mentioned postponing the reopening of schools to late August when it was warmer would be depriving the learners the opportunity to interact with their teachers face-to-face and further deprive them the school based assessment for practical subjects such as agriculture, consumer science as well as others which would ultimately result in the loss of the whole school calendar year.
She also said the capacity building of all stakeholders was currently ongoing and the training was targeting school response teams and aimed at managing the virus at school level as well as classrooms including marking of scripts, dealing with learners with special education needs as well as case management among others.
With regards to the non-completing grades, the minister said they would take a phased approach as it was important to monitor how the system reacted with fewer learners before enrolling all the external grades.
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