The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) has slammed a decision by the Eastern Cape provincial education department to issue tablets only to matric pupils attending the poorest schools in the province.
In a circular dated May 2, the department’s superintendent-general Themba Kojana indicated that tablets will only be supplied to quintile 1-3 schools this month. These are the poorest three quintiles in the five-quintile structure.
Quintile 4 and 5 schools are regarded as the more affluent schools, according to the department of basic education’s classification of schools.
On the other hand, SIM cards will be given to all grade 12 pupils in quintile 1-5 schools.
There are more than 100,000 matrics at Eastern Cape schools this year.
Kojana said his department had launched a Virtual Education Broadcasting Platform “to provide learners remote teaching and learning platforms in an interactive manner”.
One of the key elements of this programme was that teachers would be able to reach out to many learners from different areas.
“The recording ability allows teachers and learners to go back to the delivered content at their own free time,” he said.
A total of 72,000 learners with access to 4GB SIM cards would be able to access digital content and streaming.
“There will be a total of 55,000 learners with access to tablets with technical support to grade 12 learners in quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools.”
Kojana said broadcasting capacity was being expanded to cater for the streaming of different grade 12 subjects simultaneously.
“Districts will be able to stream lessons for a full grade 12 school timetable via a virtual classroom. This will ensure that learners receive tuition on a daily basis and keep up to date with their schoolwork.”
The department will provide further guidance “on how teachers can engage grade 12 learners in continuous assessment activities while home schooling”.
The department was also giving pupils printed copies of extra support material to reinforce teaching and revision. “The additional study materials in the 11 key subjects will be distributed to all needy learners in the province,” said Kojana.
“Understandably, the grade 12 cohort of 2020 will be prioritised in the more intensified and direct support being availed by the department to ensure that they are ready for the National Senior Certificate exams.”
Matric pupils will be required to collect the resources from their schools. Principals will inform them of the collection date.
However, Naptosa chief executive Basil Manuel said the union viewed the department’s move as “absolute discrimination”.
“At a time when we are in a pandemic, to try and discriminate on the grounds of a quintile system, which at any rate is flawed, is ridiculous,” he said.
Manuel said the quintile 4 and the majority of quintile 5 schools in the province were low-fee schools in predominantly former coloured and Indian areas.
“The schools are populated primarily by learners from informal settlements and low sub-economic areas. To exclude them is harkening back to the worst days of apartheid,” he said.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga told the nation last week that researchers working with schools to determine the impact of information and communications technology (ICT) on lessons said it was reaching only 30% of pupils countrywide.
“Yes, indeed we kept the homefires burning, but the strength is in the classroom. We are not saying it’s a lost cause. We were deploying ICT to support what is happening in the classrooms, so it’s a completely different pedagogy that we are talking about,” she said.