Teachers keep learners engaged through online learning but are finding it challenging themselves. 

The global pandemic of COVID-19 and the need to stay home has pushed South African schools to remote online learning. Teachers have found themselves needing to adapt quickly to meeting the needs of their learners while learning new tools and tricks for virtual teaching at the same time. 

Sarah Hull, a Grade Seven teacher at Campsbay Primary school in the western Cape has been working remotely with her students since the start of the lockdown on Thursday, March 26. Hull said, “They (the school) use several online forms to communicate and teach the students but predominantly google classroom and they (the learners) are working well”. 

Hull says this, “form of teaching is now more about providing resources, informal assessments and project-based assignment learning”. She adds that this allows for the students to start exploring the internet as well as explore one’s own learning. 

Sarah Moross, a grade three teacher at Hertzlia Highlands, said that the biggest challenge for her is teaching new concepts to the children without physical engagement. Moross covers all the curriculum for her learners. 

Moross said, “It is very hard to teach new concepts and so my focus at the moment has been to emphasise concepts taught during the year and we are doing this through videos and apps”. 

Lindy Leventhal, a mother of three children, said that she has a business to run and this is an exceptionally difficult time. She said, “We are not remote teaching but managing a crisis, we can’t be expected to be the best mothers and best teachers”. 

Hull highlights the social inequalities at play during this time saying that one must be conscious of the fact that parents have to spend money on data, as well as other things, for this remote learning to happen. These are costs on top of the school fees that one has to pay. 

Lindy Diamon is a mother of three and a working parent emphasises the importance of face-to-face time with a teacher but added that ‘Zoom meetings do show a level of privilege we need to be aware of. We can’t assume that everyone has access to these facilities”. 

Hull said, “technology opens so many doors for moving forward but it is a privilege that only those with money have and that in itself is devastating in a South African context”. 

Hull said that “the long term effects of this lockdown will have far-reaching consequences and I think will further the divide between those who have the privilege of learning online, access to devices and Wi-Fi and those who do not”. 

The general secretary of Equal Educators, Nancedo Madubedube said that online learning is not the only answer to continuing the education programme during the lockdown.

She said, “Us (South Africans), using ICT leaves out a huge demographic of our country that disservices (sic) the idea of us having education in a democratic society”.

The South Africa Department of basic education has made provision of online tools and resources to assist parents, care-givers and learners. This includes study material, in the form of multimedia as well as other reading material for students from Grade R to Twelve.  They are also making use of the national broadcaster, the SABC to deliver teaching resources via TV channels and radio stations. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Teachers across the country are challenged to meet the demands of remote learning at schools. Photo: Anna Moross