The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the lives of people across the globe. In South Africa, the pandemic has significantly impacted the education sector. The closure of schools has harmed the learning and development of learners, particularly those in Grade R.
Grade R is a critical year in the foundation phase of schooling. It is the year learners consolidate the skills and knowledge they have acquired in previous years. They also begin to develop the skills and knowledge they will need in the future.
The consequential impact of COVID-19 on the educational development of Grade R learners is a serious cause for concern. In this blog post, we will explore the impact of the pandemic on the education of Grade R learners and what can be done to mitigate the negative effects.
hoto by Arthur Krijgsman: https://www.pexels.com/photo/children-sitting-on-brown-chairs-inside-the-classroom-4019754/
The effect of COVID-19 on the schooling system
The pandemic drastically changed the fundamental operations of schools. Schools had to close, forcing learners to switch to remote or online learning. The digital divide was a major challenge for learners, especially those in grade R. The shift to online learning meant that many learners did not have access to the resources needed to continue learning from home, especially those in disadvantaged areas.
The period of disruption caused by the pandemic significantly affected the learning and development of Grade R learners. Research funded by the nonprofit organisation the Mr Price Foundation, has shown that as many as 38% of Grade R learners may never catch up. You can read the full research article here. This is because the foundation phase of schooling is crucial in developing foundational skills needed for future learning. Loss of this learning could profoundly affect the learners’ future learning.
Furthermore, much of the concept-building and development of new skills and knowledge takes place in physical artificial environments. E-learning is not as effective at inculcating these skills, as learners cannot interact with the environment and have an immersive learning experience.
The impact of lockdown on Grade R learners
During the prolonged lockdown, there were significant disruptions to the educational development of Grade R learners. With the physical closure of schools and the challenges of providing online education, many learners could not access the education they needed to develop the foundational skills for success in their later academic career.
The challenges brought about by the pandemic period also had an emotional impact on Grade R learners. The social, emotional and physical losses will have an impact on the educational development of these learners. The lockdown, isolation, and absence of physical interaction did not provide the social stimulus the learners needed and may stunt their emotional growth.
Furthermore, learners who do not live in a stable home environment cannot access the resources and emotional support needed for emotional growth. These learners will likely face significant challenges when they return to school and could fall behind in their educational development.
Therefore, it is clear that the impact of COVID-19 and the resultant period of lockdown had a detrimental effect on the educational development of Grade R learners. Support and interventions need to be implemented to help these learners catch up with the rest of their peers and ensure they have the skills they need to develop their education further.
Photo by Katerina Holmes: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-boy-talking-with-teacher-about-school-online-5905717/.
The importance of early education
The impact of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of early education for Grade R learners. Education at an early age plays a fundamental role in laying the foundations for success in a child’s later educational experience. Early learning provides Grade R learners with the skills necessary for later schooling success. This includes the development of cognitive, motor, and language skills as well as social, emotional and physical development.
Early education also equips young learners with the numeracy, reading and writing skills they need to access primary school education. Furthermore, early education forms the basis for a learner’s long-term educational development and career prospects.
In addition to providing the educational resources needed for success, early education also plays a pivotal role in imparting values, developing leadership skills and cultivating creative potential. This is especially true for Grade R learners, who are still developing the social, emotional and physical skills they will need in the future.
Given the magnitude of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Grade R learners must receive support and intervention to ensure their educational development is not hindered. Early education gives learners the skills and resources to succeed and impact their life trajectory.
Ghoto by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photo-of-young-girl-in-red-dress-playing-with-building-blocks-3662637/
The challenges faced by parents and guardians
The pandemic has presented various challenges for parents and guardians of Grade R learners. With the closure of schools and the shift to online learning, there has been a sharp increase in the responsibility and involvement of parents and guardians amid the health crisis.
An increased need for educational and technical support and guidance is essential. Many parents and guardians are unfamiliar with online learning, leading to extreme confusion and frustration.
Additional educational support in the form of so-called “extra lessons” or tutoring would assist learners to catch up. This must be done before later grades start to build on the educational foundation prepared in the foundation phase of education; however, if the school does not offer these services, it can be a real challenge for parents to access this support.
In addition to technical challenges, there are also financial hurdles. Not all parents and guardians can afford the technology and software needed for their children to access virtual learning platforms.
In a household with multiple children, the change in an educational setting has created competing demands for time, which poses another challenge. With all the members of the family home and the limited resources available, it is difficult for parents and guardians to devote sufficient attention to their children’s learning.
On top of all this is the emotional suffering endured by parents and children alike. Many cannot continue their live interactions with teachers and other children to protect their children from the virus. The pandemic’s social and emotional consequences on Grade R learners must not be overlooked.
The way forward for Grade R learners
hoto by James Wheeler: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-pathway-surrounded-by-fir-trees-1578750/
pandemic has impacted different grade levels differently and created a host of challenges for Grade R learners. To offer a bright future for these children, it is essential to create positive strategies tailored to their individual needs.
Some of the strategies that can be employed are as follows:
1. Schools, NGOs or Community organisations need to offer Support and Guidance to Parents and Guardians – It is important to provide support and guidance to parents and guardians so that they can understand and use virtual learning resources. Resources such as webinars and training can help parents and guardians understand the basics of online learning.
2. Provide Financial Solutions to Access Technology – There should be an effort to provide financial assistance where needed. This could involve providing access to affordable computers and laptops as well as affordable Internet packages.
3. Address Social and Emotional Needs – Special measures should be taken to address the social and emotional needs of Grade R learners. This could involve offering therapeutic support and emotional security and emphasizing activities that promote social engagement.
4. Make Curriculum Flexible – Government and Educational institutions should introduce a flexible curriculum that considers the current learning flux and parents’ and guardians’ emotional and financial needs.
UPside Community Services will address these issues through the following initiatives;
ALONGside Programme offers free counselling services to parents and learners to help process the impact of COVID and educational challenges.
ONside EdX Talks – ONside will guide parents and learners on the impact of COVID on their child’s future and how best to navigate their remaining schooling years
ONside Programme – ONside will provide free tutoring services to learners. Currently, this programme only offers this service to Grade 8 Maths learners, but we hope to extend this service through your financial support and involvement. You can access our free YouTube channel here or complete this form to show your interest in our tutoring service.
If you wish to provide provide financial support for the work that UPside does please follow this link: https://upside.org.za/donate/.
Through thoughtful strategy and executing these measures, we can ensure that the children of Grade R have a secure future despite the current pandemic.