Teachers keep in touch during lockdown

Teacher Liesel Fortuin has been working from home during lockdown and connects with her pupils and parents to encourage them to keep working until they are able to go back to school.

The Western Cape Education Department is urging children and parents to keep themselves busy and connect with one another during this lockdown period.

Teacher Liesel Fortuin, from Oval North Technical High School in Beacon Valley, said she keeps in contact with her pupils through WhatsApp.

Pupils wrote exams until the last day of school on Wednesday March 18 after the early closure of schools was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation on Sunday March 15 as part of the country’s strategy to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Ms Fortuin’s Grade 12 pupils were given homework, and online quizzes so that they can assess themselves.

“The lockdown is stressful. The recess period is over, so there is a lot of lost contact time. This may affect our June holidays too,” she said.

She said, however, that now that they we are forced to do e-learning. It makes them more acquainted and comfortable with e-learning and e-teaching.

Ms Fortuin said as they want to improve on their 2019 matric results, they are going to have to put in a little more effort when school reopens and take on the task at hand.

The lockdown is is not a holiday, she said. She regularly encourages her pupils to do work, use the internet if they are able to and do homework. “Most parents are at home with their children at this time, and they are able to communicate and interact with each other throughout the lockdown period,” she said.

Grade 12 English and class teacher, Fagan Muller, from Cedar High School of the Arts in Rocklands, said he remains in contact with his pupils and parents via WhatsApp as well. Most pupils do not have email, some do not have a cellphone or access to it and some he contacts through their parents only.

“A cellphone is a commodity on the Cape Flats area and this is the difficulty of keeping in contact with children. I am in contact with them daily,” he said.

Hoever, some of them do not receive the messages he sends out. Data is a problem and accessing governmentsites for school is a challenge. He has given them preparation work during lockdown. “Working from a phone can be distracting, working from hard copy notes is better,” he said. He will be loading videos of his lessons soon, he said.

“We expect pupils to write the same exams at the end of the year as the more affluent schools. It is stressful for all of us. I am constantly on call with them, motivating them.

“We do not have the infrastructure for correspondence learning, especially those from the townships and the Cape Flats. We would like to push for 90% with our matric results. We also do not want to flood our children with too much information and send only what they need, during this time. They still need to apply to tertiary education and still apply for jobs. They should still think about next year,” said Mr Muller.

Alice Jansen, from The Answer Series said pupils should take control of their learning process.

The Answer Series is a series of comprehensive study guides, covering all major subjects from Grade 8 to 12, each authored by a subject expert.

Ms Jansen said many pupils are in the habit of waiting for their teacher to tell them what to do next. “This means that learning is dependent on their teacher. This is a big source of stress when they cant see or speak to their teacher frequently. Stress immediately reduces when the pupil identify what topics need to be covered, draw up a schedule, avoid Google, revise, and have a structure, rhythm and routine,” she said.

All Answer Series study guides are available as an e-book. The one-year licence at between R29 and R49 per book makes it very accessibly priced.

They are in the process of developing free video content to complement their Grade 12 study guides.

“Covid-19 is the perfect context to build capacity for matric exams. It all comes down to how South Africa’s pupils choose to respond at this time.

“For pupils who choose to own their process and take responsibility for their own learning, we’re going to see great improvements. For pupils who choose to use Covid-19 as an excuse, we will see holes in learning that will be difficult to repair. See this as a trial, without the consequences of writing an exam tomorrow,
to build your winning formula for matric success,” said Ms Jansen.

Debbie Schäfer, the MEC for Education, said during the lockdown period the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) would like parents and pupils to keep themselves busy. The WCED has updated the e-Portal to ensure that pupils will be able to access quality learning at home in a variety of ways.

They have escalated the work that has been done over the past five years on e-learning to make their learning environment digital.

Ms Schäfer said e-learning is an important part of their vision to ensure quality education for all pupils, and a means to “leapfrog” inequality.

Over 14 000 e-resources are categorised per grade and subject – 8 000 of these resources are free. For more information, visit the WCED website https://wcedeportal.co.za