Angie Motshekga/Schoolgirls pregnancies

Angie Motshekga admits more than 90k schoolgirls gave birth in past year. Image via GCIS

‘Special camps for Grade 12’ proposed, as schools in six cities may stay shut

Could Grade 12 students be asked to learn away from home for a number of weeks? Schools in COVID-19 hot-spots are desperate to finish the year.

Angie Motshekga/Schoolgirls pregnancies

Angie Motshekga admits more than 90k schoolgirls gave birth in past year. Image via GCIS

The back to school plan is set to be rolled out by the Department of Education on Monday and, according to numerous sources, the way pupils return to education could be decided by their locations. But parents and Grade 12 students could find themselves preparing for ‘special learning camps’ away from home.

Children in different parts of SA may have alternate school return dates

As previously reported, a staggered reintroduction is likely to bring pupils in Grade 7 and Grade 12 back first. But the Sunday Times has now stated that the 1 June reopening target for schools could be missed by some of the biggest metros in South Africa.

As revealed by health minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday, the government is looking to move regions forward based on how they are performing individually. All 52 districts of South Africa will be judged separately to see if they can move on to the next phase of lockdown, which is Level 3.

Which schools may not go back in June?

But regions where coronavirus continues to spread quickly could be held back. The Education Department is fearful of sending children back to school too early, and it is believed the following metropolitan districts will have to wait a few weeks longer than the rest before their youngsters can return to the classroom:

  • Buffalo City
  • Cape Town
  • Johannesburg (and Ekurhuleni)
  • eThekwini
  • Mangaung
  • Nelson Mandela Bay

Special camps for Grade 12 students?

However, that’s not the only eye-catching development that’s surfaced on Sunday. Over 150 000 matric students live in these hot-spots, and time is ticking on their educational calendar. Regardless of the situation in these cities, Grade 12 pupils need to get their school years finished at some point.

That’s where the idea to “accommodate all Grade 12 students in special camps” comes in. Although further elaboration is needed on this, we expect Education Minister Angie Motshekga to outline on Monday how exactly it would work in the middle of a pandemic. The logistics of what is allegedly being considered are huge.

The transport of children, guaranteeing them a safe learning environment, and even the possibility of them having to leave their homes for overnight stays are all issues firmly on the table. It remains a waiting game until tomorrow, but we understand the Motshekga will lift the lid on these discussions during the planned media briefing.

Backing for Grade 12 camps from education figures

Thembalihle Skonje, an educator at Ngqayizivele Secondary School in Tembisa, turned heads this week when he registered his support for school camps. The proposal Skonje submitted online takes place over a five-week timeline, and would push students to learn beyond their current school hours:

“I propose School Camps for the Grade 12s together with all Grade 12 educators. The camps will enable the province whereby the year could be saved, lives could be saved, and infection could be controlled and thus the curve flattened. This would hopefully take place from the end of July through to August.”

“Four to five weeks of extensive and rigorous teaching could be used efficiently to cover the 50% left on the syllabus. The Camps would be extended beyond school hours to afternoon and evening classes. During these camps, learners would be safe as they will be screened all the time.”

Thembalihle Skonje

The fear that 50% of the curriculum is still left to teach also fails to bother education activist Hendrick Makaneta, who was quoted at the beginning of last week advocating for education camps to take place during winter. It seems this option, although concerning to some, has support from within the teaching industry.

“I believe Grade 12 learners together with their teachers should be in the camps. We know that usually every year there are Grade 12 camps. Grade 12 learners have already covered 50% of their work as far as the curriculum is concerned.”

If all of them are based in a camp for a period of five weeks, they should be able cover 50% curriculum. But prior to taking them to the camp they must be screened and tested for COVID-19.”

Hendrick Makaneta