The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has put measures in place to support learners during the national coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.
Minister Angie Motshekga met with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) to evaluate plans that will ensure learners are better informed about the virus and that they continue their education in their homes. The DBE also held a series of consultative meetings with provincial departments of education.
The minister said the United Nations Children’s Fund and the National Education Collaboration Trust have come on board to support the department in ensuring that the 2020 academic year it not too badly impacted.
Learner support programmes
With support from the provinces, the department has prepared online and broadcast support resources, comprising subject content, with a focus on Grade 12 learners and the promotion of reading for all the grades.
The department is working closely with key partners to co-ordinate and make available content tailored to support learners’ education and health needs during this time.
Amongst resources available, Minister Motshekga mentioned:
- Broadcast lessons (SABC TV and radio).
- DSTV channel 180.
- e.tv has allocated a dedicated channel for three months on the Openview platform.
- Broadcast of lessons on community radio stations around the country.
- Electronic readers available via all platforms in partnership with Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell-C.
- 2Enable App, a freely downloadable education platform with over 2 000 electronic readers in the indigenous languages.
- Promoting the African Storybook series through the 2Enable App.
- The National Reading Coalition has identified extensive lists of additional resources and organisations that are willing to make their materials available.
- Free access to Siyavula Maths and Science support in partnership with MTN.
- Free access to the Vodacom Virtual Classroom.
“The content has been carefully curated to be available online and for broadcast, and will be made available on various platforms. The DBE website has been updated with current and relevant content, inclusive of reading resources and websites,” she explained.
Other content which is available on the websites of various education partners has also been made available, through links on the DBE website www.education.gov.za, which parents, teachers and learners are encouraged to visit.
“We urge those who are raising learners with special education needs to get in touch with the department should the need arise,” the minister said.
The minister said the Read to Lead campaign and the National Reading Coalition will continue to drive their messages aimed at heightening awareness of the importance of reading for enjoyment.
“We urge households to support reading improvement initiatives by ensuring that children are given time to read, and that parents and caregivers participate by reading with their children and sharing stories,” she said.
In terms of the availability of books, she said a number of readers in various languages have been uploaded to the DBE’s online platforms.
School nutrition programme
Minister Motshekga said the effect of the lockdown on those children who rely on school nutrition programmes remains a concern but said they were working with the Department of Social Development (DSD) to find solutions.
Meanwhile, she said nutrition support will be provided to families in poverty nodes in which the DSD has a presence. A family will be allowed to collect one weekly food parcel for the duration of the lockdown.
Minister Motshekga said several partners have indicated their willingness to assist, including Tiger Brands, Nestle, Pioneer, Old Mutual, First Rand and Add Hope Foundation.
She said the exact dates for the re-opening of schools have yet to be confirmed but explained that the department is finalising an operating procedure to provide guidance to schools and education offices on how to prepare for the re-opening.
The department is in discussion with the National Treasury and all provinces on the provision of a minimum health package to schools.
Meanwhile, families and community services are encouraged to be extra vigilant in the care and support of learners. “Do not leave them unattended, watch for signs of depression and provide ongoing support to address any anxiety at this time. It is important that we continue to speak to the learners about the promotion of health and safety in the home by adhering to basic hygiene practices,” the minister said.