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Generic photo of a classroom – Photo: Unsplash

Lockdown: Pupils lost out on nearly two years of learning, says researcher

School closures would further hinder education for learners who have already lost 20 months of learning since lockdown last year, a researcher said.

matric results muncipalities brightest students

Generic photo of a classroom – Photo: Unsplash

School closures in South Africa, due to COVID-19 related lockdowns, has cost learners between 50-70% of learning.

After months of lost education, they are not likely to catch up because the Department of Basic Education does not have “credibly funded recovery plans” said Dr Nick Spaull, a Senior Researcher at Stellenbosch University, in Cape Town.

He, therefore, supported Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga’s, decision on the weekend to keep all public schools open amid the surge of COVID-19 infections around the country and lockdown Level 3.

“I support kids going back to school. Evidence showed schools are not sites of spread. Teachers are more likely to get infected in their own communities rather than their schools. Children are less susceptible to getting COIVD-19 or to spreading it,” said Spaull.


Spaull supported Motshekga’s localised approach to handling COVID-19 break-outs at schools. Motshekga informed the public on the weekend that all 23 000 schools in South Africa will not be closed during the current lockdown restrictions. She indicated that school COVID-19 breakouts will be dealt with case-by-case.

“The disruptions in schooling since April last year cost learners about 20 months of an education. That is still the case this year up to June with only half of the kids attending school every second day. Kids lost 50-75% of learning since last year,” said Spaull.

“The average grade three child by June 2021 is likely to be at the same place as the average Grade two child in 2019. This is not because standards of education are dropping but because schools are closed and children are not going to school [and] are not been taught,” he said.

Home schooling is out-of-reach for 80% of learners says Spaull. Simply because they don’t have the resources to access online education. Internet connectivity and computers are not available to the majority of South African learners.

The closure of schools during lockdown would further impact on children from reception level to Grade three, a crucial stage where they learn to read to gain further knowledge.

“We already knew pre-pandemic that reading within this group would be a challenge. The school closures due to the pandemic has further exacerbated this. This problem cannot be remediated outside of school,” said Spaull.

He added that the department did not have credibly funding catch-up plans, reiterating his call for schools to remain open amid Level 3 lockdown.