The Department of Basic Education has published the updated academic calendar for schools in South Africa for 2021.
The amended calendar comes after the return of public schools was delayed by several weeks until 15 February, due to the impact of a second Covid-19 wave in the country.
The updated calendar will now see the academic year end on 15 December 2021, with a total of 192 actual school days planned (from 195 days, previously).
The new term dates are as follows:
- 15 February – 23 April;
- 3 May – 9 July;
- 26 July – 1 October;
- 11 October – 15 December.
While the latest delay is not as disruptive as those seen in the 2020 academic year, schools are still expected to implement measures to make up for lost teaching time.
Last week, parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education said that it welcomes the intention to hold extra-curricular classes to ensure that learners are adequately prepared for examinations.
The committee also welcomed the plans for additional support to teachers in relation to learning and assessment guidelines to support teachers in the implementation of the recovery plan.
The committee also called on the Department of Basic Education to ensure that schools have replacement teachers so that teaching and learning continues in those cases where teachers are unavailable due to increased risk caused by co-morbidities.
Education experts have already warned that the delayed 2021 school calendar, in combination with lost teaching time in 2020, is likely to have a significant impact on South African students.
In a briefing to parliament on 20 January, the Department of Education’s director-general Mathanzima Mweli said that younger students are particularly at risk of forgetting about skills and knowledge acquired at school if they stop learning for extended periods of time.
“This creates a challenge of ‘accumulated gaps’ as they continue into further grades,” he said.
At the other end of the scale, Mweli said that the department was concerned about the Grade 12 cohort of 2021, who lost significant teaching time as Grade 11 pupils in 2020.
“We have narrowed the curriculum as part of a process known as ‘trimming’ which means that these students were not exposed to the full curriculum. However, in matric, they will be examined on the full contents of Grades 10, 11 and 12.
“The further delay of teaching this year places a huge burden on the system as we now not only have to catch up on Grade 12 content but also on the Grade 11 content which was lost last year.”
“It is going to be extremely difficult for the education system to recover the learning losses.”