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10 000 NC pupils ‘go missing’

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More than 10 000 pupils cannot be accounted for by the NC Dept of Education and might have dropped out of school following the outbreak of Covid-19

Picture: Courtney Africa/ANA

MORE than 10 000 pupils cannot be accounted for by the Northern Cape Department of Education and might have dropped out of school following the outbreak of Covid-19.

This is according to a presentation by Sandile Beuzana, the Northern Cape’s basic education acting head of department to the select committee on education and technology, sport, arts and culture.

While the enforcement of lockdown meant schooling had to be restructured to accommodate remote learning and the eventual phasing in of pupils, many have not returned and neither have they been registered for home schooling.

Beuzana told the committee that the department had meetings with principals to engage with the parents of the 10 290 children who had not returned to school.

More than 3 700 Grade R, Grade 1 and Grade 2 pupils did not return to school, while almost 1 000 Grade 11 (400) and 12 (580) pupils dropped out.

“The department held meetings with principals to engage parents whose children were not at school,” Beuzana said. “Schools communicated with parents to encourage them to send their children to school.”

He added that the department was currently using various strategies to secure accurate data on absenteeism due to parents choosing not to send pupils to school for reasons covered under the Disaster Management Act.

“Various back-to-school programmes have also been developed to address the thousands of children who haven’t returned to school.”

Meanwhile, Beuzana also indicated the level of the curriculum that had been covered by October 16, which for Grade 12 was 91%. However, for lower grades it was far less; ranging from 57.9% for Grade 11, 45% for Grade 10, down to a low of 33.3% for Grade 4, 36.4% for Grade 3 and 25% for Grade 2. For Grade 7, the percentage of the curriculum covered was 76%.

The committee members expressed their concern at the number of pupils who had not returned to school and the drop-out rates and emphasised that more steps needed to be taken to ensure that pupils went back to school.

The worry was that Covid-19 would have a more devastating impact on the number of pupils dropping out especially as the virus was likely to still be around for years to come.

Beuzana meanwhile pointed out that Grade 12 pupils who are infected with Covid-19 during the exams will have to quarantine for a period of 10 days, and thereafter the pupils will continue with their remaining subjects. The subjects missed would be written the following year.

Dr Michelle Ishmael, deputy director-general: curriculum, examinations and assessments, Northern Cape Department of Education, said during the meeting that a total of 647 schools in the Province had been disinfected, as well as the department’s entire car fleet, which had contributed to the R44 million spent.

Schools that had repeat threat infections had to be disinfected again. She pointed out that in the Pixley ka Seme District there was an epicentre and a breakout of fatalities in schools already disinfected. The Department therefore had to disinfect again.

Discussing its state of readiness for the matric examinations, the provincial department indicated that it was confident that the provincial and district examination systems were ready to administer the exams.

“As the provincial Education Department we have taken all the precautionary steps and measures and applied all protocols to ensure an incident-free and successful administration and management of the 2020 NSC/SC examinations,” Beuzana said.

A total of 12 049 full-time NSC candidates have registered for the examinations, as well as 1 689 part-time candidates. Together with the June candidates, the total number of candidates registered is 23 928.

The pledge signing ceremony will take place on November 2 and the provincial event will be held at Ratang Thuto High School in Postmasburg under the theme: “The Northern Cape is ready. Let’s all support the class of 2020.”

The results will be released by the minister on February 22 and by the provincial department on February 23.