OPINION: Before, during and after Covid-19 – An academic catch-up plan for South African learners

Let’s use the COVID-19 pandemic as the catalyst for a much-needed way of catching up learners – now and long after our masks come off, write Kristal Duncan-William and Merle Mansfield.

With schools having resumed in a phased approach from 8 June 2020, learners are not just dealing with lags in learning brought about by the 60-day lockdown period; many are confronted by knowledge gaps set in place long before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

As 28-year old Thabang from the Youth Capital network puts it: “When I repeated Grade 7, I didn’t have any support and other kids made fun of me. Luckily, that just pushed me to work harder and I passed, but friends in the same situation couldn’t cope and dropped out.” Thabang’s story is all too common in South Africa, where only 37% of those who start Grade 1 complete matric 12 years later – an unsurprising statistic given the constant game of catch-up our learners have to play from early on in their school careers.

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