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Dear Minister Motshekga and Mr Mweli

We as education organisations and activists recognise that the COVID-19 virus has created an unprecedented set of challenges for our education system in ensuring curriculum coverage and the continuation of teaching and learning.

We therefore wish to acknowledge that the Department of Basic Education (“DBE”) has instituted swift measures to mitigate some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting school closures, on learning.

We note in particular, the availability of curriculum resources through a number of digital platforms and television and radio broadcasts (“online and broadcast curriculum resources”). We also note the DBE’s 2020 Draft Framework for Curriculum Recovery Post COVID-19 (“Curriculum Recovery Plan”), which begins to set out the potential education responses to various COVID-19 scenarios in the coming months. Your leadership in this regard is appreciated and commended.

Our understanding from the Curriculum Recovery Plan, together with the recent statements made by Minister Motshekga in the media, is that curriculum recovery will be focussed primarily on the following: (1) Recovery of in-school learning and teaching time; (2) Review of the curriculum to focus on the core curriculum where feasible and (3) Review of examinations based on the curriculum review. The online and broadcast curriculum resources that have been made available will, we understand, serve to supplement and enhance the Curriculum Recovery Plan.

Pursuant to each of our organisational mandates to ensure the fulfilment of the right to basic education in the Constitution, we have been monitoring the rollout of the DBE’s measures to ensure that meaningful learning opportunities continue during this period of necessary school closures. We will endeavour to support the DBE to the extent that the measures taken are
consistent with the fulfilment of the right to basic education.

We welcome Minister Motshekga’s position that learners will not be assessed on content that has not been taught during contact lessons.1 The reality is that the vast majority of learners will have an extremely difficult time learning at home and cannot be expected to keep up with the formal curriculum during school closures. The Curriculum Recovery Plan seems to be informed by this understanding.

Nonetheless, there remains considerable uncertainty in South Africa, and indeed across the globe, regarding when it will be deemed safe for schools to re-open and for learners and teachers to return to the schooling environment.

Therefore, while learning from home remains the only option for learning at this time, we would like to draw your attention to some key issues that have we have noted in our monitoring of existing responses, as well as through the complaints that have been received by some of our organisations from the public.

As is noted in the Curriculum Recovery Plan, the biggest challenge for many is the availability of technology and ‘’inequalities in access [to technology] can further inflame inequalities in education”.

Read our full joint letter, written by Equal Education, SECTION27 and the Equal Education Law Centre here. Read the annexure to the letter here.