Rotational school attendance is no more. But while principals welcome a return to uninterrupted teaching time, a psychologist is concerned about learners’ mental wellbeing.
Under the assumption that South Africa has seen the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, schools across the country made a return to pre-Covid normality. This, after the department of basic education announced last week that rotational attendance for primary, secondary and special schools would be scrapped as of Monday, 7 February 2022.
Principal Moshebeimang Serei of the PH Moeketsi Agricultural School tells Food For Mzansi that the scrapping of rotational attendance is a great move by government. “I am really excited… because this means learning and teaching in our schools will go smoothly, without breaks in between. Educators will be able to spend more time with the pupils.
“It was starting to be a worrying trend; we were [on] the road to producing pupils with half-cooked knowledge as a result of limited times with the teachers.”
Concerns over learner anxiety
But while many agricultural and rural schools seem pleased with government’s decision to let learners return to full classrooms, there are concerns about teens’ psychological wellbeing.
After almost two years of disruptions in in-person learning – from March 2020 to be exact – Serei reckons that attending school every day will have a psychological impact on students as they had become used to attending school two or three times a week and skipping the next week. “They are already used to the timetable.”
Counselling psychologist Thandokazi Ntuli says that learners will now need all the support they can get from educators, parents and their community as they get back in the thick of things.
“It should be acknowledged and expected that learners will experience anxiety. Change, in human beings, brings about anxiety, whether positive or negative. It is therefore crucial to look after the wellbeing of our learners.
“Their academic success depends on their readiness and adjustment, adaptability, emotional stability and maturity,” Ntuli says.
The principal of Boland Agricultural High School in Paarl, Kobus Hartman, says the school has already started with full-time attendance. Fortunately, the Western Cape school did not encounter any challenges when learners returned to their traditional timetable, Hartman says.
Covid-19 protocols still a must
Serei cautions that it is important for schools to keep practising safety measures as the Covid-19 pandemic remains a reality.
“Covid-19 is still with us. I think that is where we will need to closely, carefully and constructively… plead with those who have not vaccinated to do so.
“We will increase our safety measures and ensure the committees we appointed are still in place because we are dealing with children who do not [always] adhere to the regulations of wearing masks and social distancing.”
As educators, he says, they are excited to hit the ground running and to work to better the schools’ overall results.
Serei says he is also excited that contact sport will be back in full swing. He expects that this will help more pupils engage as they join activities across different sporting codes.
“The scrapping of the one-metre rule will also assist us because that stretched our already limited capacity of both infrastructure and educators as we had to divide classes.
“On sports, I am personally excited because where there is sports, there are results. Our pupils had already started with athletics after two [interrupted] years, so the momentum is slowly gaining and we really look forward to this academic year.”
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