Schooling continues under lockdown

Jean-Paul van Wyk, a grade 7 learner at Bellpark Primary.

The extension of the lockdown until the end of April means that children will remain at home – and schools shut – for at least the next two weeks. Many schools, however, are getting creative by taking their teaching online. One of these is Bellpark Primary School which is offering lessons taught via social media.

Biggs van Wyk, vice-principal and a maths teacher at Bellpark, said: “During the initial lockdown, learners were still on holiday and as a result, we started a WhatsApp group with the parents of my Grade 7 class, which includes my son Jean-Paul, to keep learners up to date with classes. I would then record short videos where I give the learners sums to complete and the next day I would provide a memorandum. Of course, students could then also send questions and I would answer those questions.” 

Mr Van Wyk added that the group moved from WhatsApp to Telegram, as it allowed contacts to remain private and it was also a more secure platform.

Mr Van Wyk said: “At the school, we have four classes per grade, one for English home language and three Afrikaans home language. Since the lockdown, we have created two groups for grades 4 till 7, one for English and the other for Afrikaans. We have prioritised the grade 7 class because of course, they need to be prepared for high school next year and grades R to 3 are still using WhatsApp groups.”

With classes being conducted online, the benefit is that pupils can continue learning while in lockdown. There are, however, a few shortcomings. 

Mr Van Wyk said: “There has to be a willingness from the parents and the learner to learn. We can put all the lessons up but it is up to them to take part. When we spoke with other schools there was a sense that not all teachers and parents were too keen on this project so that is a big challenge. Fortunately at our school, everybody seems to be on board. The other issue is, of course, data costs and some of the parents are essential workers so the children will only have access to their cellphones late at night. “

Mr Van Wyk added that the classes now included more than 400 pupils, with everything is working well at the moment. 

“We know that these are challenging times but despite this, it is a time for parents and teachers to be innovative and we all remain in high spirit as we are working together for a common cause.”

Education MEC Debbie Schafer applauded the efforts of Bellpark Primary and encouraged parents and other institutions to do the same. 

“During the lockdown period the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) would like parents and learners to keep themselves busy. That is why the WCED has updated the e-Portal to ensure that our learners will be able to access quality learning @home in a variety of ways,” she said.

Ms Schafer added that the e-learning portals had been a priority for the department over the past few years and that teachers had been regularly trained, through seminars and workshops, in how to best use the service. 

“The WCED has been working hard to ensure that our teachers are trained in e-learning, that our learners are exposed to a variety of learning platforms and that e-Resources are made available to suit their curriculum needs,” she said. “Our strategy over the past five years has been aimed at ensuring that learning can take place at any time, anywhere.”

While schools have been encouraged to conduct online lessons, Ms Schafer added that parents can also download education resources from https://wcedeportal.co.za