Covid-19 ‘has worsened education inequality’ - expert

Covid-19 ‘has worsened education inequality’ - expert

Educational specialist Professor Mary Metcalfe says Covid-19 has worsened the unequal conditions of education in South Africa.

matric pupils in class schools reopening
Sinethemba Madolo

Metcalfe says most pupils have lost a substantial portion of the academic year, a fact which served a stark reminder of the unequal nature of school in South Africa.

"The issue of inequality has been one of the biggest learnings from Covid-19.

“We normally all live our own lives in our own parts of the system and for many South Africans to understand that there are many schools that do not have water, that there are many schools that we're unable to open because of not being able to practice elementary steps of self-care and caring for others.

“It means that as a country we need to focus on ensuring that the basic conditions of learning and teaching in terms of infrastructure at schools are addressed.”


She says those pupils who had access to resources at home were able to continue learning throughout the lockdown.

"We need to look at infrastructure and levels of support for schools. The other thing is that when we monitor schools, it is not compliance that should be the underlying character of this monitoring.

“It should be orientated toward support, that when provinces and districts receive reports from schools in terms of their needs, the orientation should be to use those reports to provide support. Many principals will tell you that they spend a huge amount of hours writing reports without ever getting feedback on those reports and that is unequal across provinces.”



Metcalfe says South Africans need to demand an annual progress report from government as it moves to address the inequalities.

"The Department of Basic Education needs to need to set a clear set of indicators for the fundamental levels of inequalities from infrastructure and make that public.

“They also need to demand accountability from provinces."


Basic Education: Technology in classrooms 'no longer an option'

COVID-19 A WAKE-UP CALL Mokgatlhe says the pandemic has shown the need for the department to ensure teachers and pupils have access to more technological resources in the classroom. "The training of teachers in technology and ICT has been in place, it is ongoing.


Metcalfe says the fourth industrial revolution in classrooms will remain an illusion, as many communities do not even have access to power.

"Many communities in South Africa are hardly even at the level of the second industrial revolution, many communities don't have regular access to energy and power.

“There is going to be a risk of more and more people being left behind. They will be some element of society that is able to capitalise and move forward with the 4IR while many are left behind.”

She believes the backlog will only be wiped out through constant work from government.

"We have seen this with Covid-19, the vast majority of schools don't even have access to data or internet or even devices, while others were forward with studies through the use of computers and other online devices.

"It should be added on what the Department of Education is reporting on annually, what measures are they taking, how far are we with the progress.”

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