Wednesday 2020-08-12

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YEAR NOT GOING TO WASTE, SCHOOLS TO REOPEN – GOVT

By Zwelethu Dlamini | 2020-08-02

Learners and teachers who may harbour the idea that the 2020 school calendar year may be cancelled due to the time lost for classes may have to put that thought away as the ministry of education says this year will not be cancelled.

This was confirmed by the Ministry of Education Principal Secretary Bertram Stewart in an interview with this publication.

“We are not going to cancel this year as schools will reopen; we are still awaiting advice from the ministry of health.  We are not blaming anyone but the COVID-19 forced us to close this long but we will make up for the time lost,” he said.

Sources from the ministry of health revealed that they had already advised government and presented their analysis of the situation based on the observations made since form fives opened on July 6.

“We presented the analysis and the statistics to cabinet and it is upon it to decide when schools will be opening. They are the ones to decide whether to allow the other grades to resume classes based on the outcome,” he added.

 The PS said the ministry was looking at means to resume lessons as opposed to cancelling the year.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), on the other hand, said the prospects of cancelling the academic year were high considering the time lost and the ill preparedness of schools to open, amid COVID-19. 

“It would depend on the systems put in place by government if they are appropriate. But it would also require innovation for the government to reopen schools and ensure that the learners get the education they were supposed to get,” said SNAT Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini.

However, he added that if the systems  are not adequate, “and we are not fully prepared to continue with lessons amid the pandemic government will have to cancel the year while preparations for next year are made to ensure that lessons will continue even if the pandemic is still with us.”

prepared

He said cancelling the year would give government adequate time to be fully prepared for next year as it was apparent that the pandemic will be here longer than it was anticipated.

Dlamini said from the look of things schools were not prepared to reopen while long distance learning may also be a challenge for the country as most of the learners were in rural areas and from disadvantaged families who do not have access to the latest technologies and media.

“Broadcast learning will not be feasible as not all children have access to radio and television. Equally, using the print media will not be viable as not all of them will have access to the newspapers,” he said.

Dlamini said they were not expecting an announcement of the staggered reopening of schools anytime soon before the progress report on the reopening of Form Fives.

He said there were challenges and lack of uniformity in the manner COVID-19 cases were handled as in some instances they heard reports of cases of positive learners hidden to avoid closure of the schools for fumigation.

Parents also had different views on the matter as they expressed themselves on social media. This is what others had to say:

User 1:  I think the situation calls for more creativity than routine thinking. People here are advocating for openness to the 'new normal', but at the same time stuck with maintaining 2020 academic year. I mean we cannot have our cake and eat it. What we are used to must give way to holistic new thinking.

User 2:  We are the people, not the pandemic. We determine what is an academic year, when it starts and when it ends. To accommodate the interruptions and lost time we can always adjust and shift accordingly. Let’s not pretend as if the year is fixed or there is a cliff after December in terms of an academic year, or we will be punished if we overlap to the following year to a point of putting our children at risk forcing that they should go to school under these conditions.

User 3 : I think we can still finish the 2020 academic year in 2021

User 4:  You might have missed the pronouncement by Government of Kenya, cancelling the academic year 2020. Strong sentiments are that we should take the same position.

User 5: But that is still too early for us to call for the academic year 2020 cancellation. I firmly believe that government knows what she is doing. They know very well that should the numbers increase drastically they will make the right call and temporarily suspend schools and other areas of the economy. Open up once we stabilise.

User 6 Closing of schools also affects a lot of businesses and the welfare of other families. What is important now is to change our behaviour and embrace the new normal.

 User 7: The 2020 academic year has to be achieved for a number of reasons. These include;

  1. The need to supply a skilled labour force into the labour market,
  2. To allow entry into higher education institutions,
  3. To allow progression in the general education system,
  4. To allow adequate time for students doing practical subjects to prepare for their examinations,
  5. To ensure the comparability of the country’s educational system and learning outcomes with the rest of the world.

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