When schools opened at the beginning of this year on 15 January 2020 much of the time was given to athletics which was indeed part of the extramural activities prior to the announcement of the state of emergency decision to close the schools on 16 March 2020. Surprisingly, this was taken while we had only two cases of Covid-19 at the time. Due to the spoiled academic year, of which much time has been wasted, would learners be able to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for them to be promoted to the next grade?
Early September the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Anna Nghipondoka, announced the resumption of face-to-face instructions. However, considering the time learners spent at home and the time left before the end of the school calendar it is really worrisome and seems to pose a threat to the quality of education.
UN secretary general Mahongora Kavihua feels that face-to-face learning in less than three months only serves to expose children to Covid-19 and to confuse parents as well as learners. To second him, I really feel that three months is not enough for teachers to cover all the competence in the syllabus, neither for proper assessment nor for teaching and learning to take place effectively in order for the learners to be able to master critical skills such as reading and writing, primarily for junior grades. This would create gaps in knowledge which would be a burden and cumbersome to be filled by teachers that are going to receive or teach these learners next year. There is an African proverb that says “if you want to eat up the whole elephant, you have to eat smaller pieces slowly until you finish, you can’t swallow the whole elephant, it is practically impossible because it may hurt you.” As a result, we must forget about quality education in 2020 – if this has to happen teachers need to do miracles.
I am advising the ministry to allow grades 10-12 to continue as usual because those are existing grades and much of the focus was on them when others were not present. I also think grades 7- 9 should also be allowed to progress as usual for the same reasons that they were also given much attention and they started a bit ahead of others. Last but not least, grades 0-6 must continue this year but they must not be promoted to the next grades until they are well prepared and internalise the knowledge, as they were the most affected by the school closure and most schools are still not operating as normal.
Let us avoid a situation of having learners in grade 4 but functioning at the levels of grade 3 as this domino effect will hamper the quality of education for many years to come. This is to say, grades 0-6 should wait to start 2021 afresh when the ministry of education will have proper plans in place.