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NC matrics struggle to access learning material

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Although resources have been provided by the Department of Education, pupils are having difficulty accessing it.

MATRIC pupils in Upington have expressed concern about completing their academic year as they are struggling to access learning material during the lockdown period.

The Northern Cape Department of Education said on Monday that it had put contingency plans in place, such as the establishment of WhatsApp groups in each district for each subject, to allow pupils to access learning materials.

Other methods implemented by the department include podcasts, video snippets and e-learning platforms that pupils and parents can utilise in their own homes.

However, parents and matric pupils in Upington said on Monday that accessing these platforms was a big challenge as not all children had the necessary resources to do so.

A matric pupil from Carlton van Heerden High School in Upington, Anthea Esterhuizen, said that she has a bleak outlook on the future as there are so many obstacles to overcome.

“We have been receiving school work since last week. Some of the subjects need to be explained by a teacher. I have been relying on my mother to assist me but we have both been struggling as there are some parts of the work I cannot understand,” said Anthea.

“We are just forwarded the worksheets and expected to complete them by ourselves. The worksheets are also in English which means I first have to translate it as I am doing my subjects in Afrikaans. The format is also a challenge as some of the work is sent in PDF format. This is really hampering our plans of wanting to excel at the end of the year.”

Anthea said the lockdown had also made it impossible to get other assistance.

“We do not know where the teachers stay, otherwise we could have approached them for help. Plus, with the lockdown, we are prohibited from walking in the streets.”

She added that this method of studying had proven to be very costly.

“I have to ask my mother for money to buy data so I can see what new schoolwork we have received … We had to scrape some money together.”

She said that libraries and other learning facilities should have been classified as essential spaces.

“Some of the work must be printed. I do not have access to a printer at home and the library where we usually print our work is now closed. There are also no internet services available where we can print. No one is going to work so my mother cannot even ask anyone to print from their office. The municipality could at least have kept the library open and limited the number of people. They needed to give the public access to the facility like they did with supermarkets. We would have been willing to wait a few minutes like we do when we have to buy  food. This is so stressful,” Anthea said.

She added that she worried about the mid-year examinations.

“The June examinations are very important. Usually the June examinations are written in May. We hope that this lockdown is not extended so we can go back to school and carry on with our work. Even if it means we have to cancel all the other holidays,” she sighed.

Esterhuizen’s mother, Martha, said her heart was breaking for pupils who do not have access to basic necessities.

“I am a single parent and I am not working during this lockdown. I was however able to provide my child with a smartphone and data. What about the children who do not have these resources or even electricity at home? My child has been watching the learning channels on DStv to catch up and prepare but these things do not come for free. I can see that she has schoolwork on her phone but what about that child who is staying in a household that is dependent on social grants. Buying data is not a priority in these households. What is to become of that child?” she asked.

Martha said that teaching should have been prioritised during the lockdown.

“The teachers could have continued with teaching by breaking up the classes into smaller groups. They could have had classes in sessions. That way the child who has no access to the internet could have access to the work. They were not supposed to have stopped learning altogether. We understand that the coronavirus is a crisis but I am certain they could have found a way to work around it,” she said.

The Northern Cape MEC for Education, Mac Jack, said the department had developed a recovery plan for all school grades.

“The comprehensive plan is to ensure that the curriculum for the 2020 school academic year is done. This will require extraordinary efforts from teachers, pupils and parents to make up for lost time. We will also intensify our Read to Lead campaign during the lockdown and call on all parents to have structural reading and storytelling sessions with their children. This will ensure that the minds of pupils remain stimulated whilst at home,” said Jack.

He added that community radio stations would be broadcasting lessons on nine critical subjects this week.

“From April 8, 2020 there will be broadcasts of Physical Sciences, Mathematics,  Mathematical Literacy, Geography, Life Orientation, Business Studies, History, Accounting and Life Sciences on all community radio stations in the Northern Cape for Grade 12 pupils. Matrics are encouraged to tune into their community stations where they will be assisted to prepare for the next semester,” he advised.