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Primary school learning adversely affected by COVID-19



Staff Reporter

Learning and teaching in primary schools has suffered the most as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and it could take a few years to fix, Free State Education MEC Tate Makgoe says.

In an interview with The Free Stater, he said following the outbreak of the disease in the country a lot of attention has been put on secondary school education particularly the matric class as they raced to complete the syllabus and prepare for tertiary education.

This, he said, came at the expense of learners in primary school as they were made to stay home or study remotely in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has created a lot of problems in our schooling system,” said Makgoe on the sidelines of a special session to moderate primary school-based assessments for Grades 3, 6 and 7 in the Motheo District held at Heidedal Primary School on Wednesday.

A total of 15 schools were sampled for the exercise in which school departmental heads made presentations.

“You will know that we are now forced to divide schools in half and the learners now rotate,” said Makgoe.

“Some schools are rotating on a weekly basis while others are rotating daily.

“This is particularly difficult for the young ones in primary school.

“If you teach them something this week and skip another one, the next time they come to school, they have forgotten everything.

“So, it’s a major problem. COVID-19 has indeed been a problem.”

Makgoe said those responsible for the curriculum have had to make some adjustments and trim it so that the learners are not disadvantaged.

“But next year . . . is going to be a very big problem because we have a whole term, the second term, where learners were not taught,” he said.

“The fourth term is mainly for exams and planning for next year.

“So, we have almost two terms where learners were not adequately taught.

“This is a problem that is going to haunt us for some years but we are prepared to do everything within our power to be able to resolve some of those challenges.”

Makgoe said the biggest challenge faced in schools is that teachers were not able to teach everything they needed to teach as timetables and the curriculum had to be re-done.

“The second one was the issue of attendance . . . you know, in some areas where children have to rotate per week, some of them forget that this is the week that we must be going to school. So, the issue of attendance is also a big problem,” pointed out.

Makgoe said to effectively deal with these challenges, his department will focus on empowering teachers in the coming year so they can do their work more effectively.

“I think the biggest issue that we want to focus on is teacher development,” he said.

“We really want to work with our teachers . . . and make sure they are confident to teach. We want to raise their morale.

“I think one of the biggest problems is that teachers at primary school, their morale is very, very low especially when it comes to things like promotions.

“Sometimes when promotions come, we favour those who are from high schools. I think that must change,” he said, adding, in the coming three years, his department will also focus on strengthening teaching and learning in primary schools.

Makgoe said he doesn’t want primary school teachers to undermine themselves but should ask probing questions when given a task so they can deliver to the best of their abilities.

The provincial director for primary schools, Eddie Dithebe, said as part of the moderating exercise school heads of departments presented the assessments done by learners in their respective schools and how they were marked.

“This is one way of verifying the quality of learning and teaching at schools,” said Dithebe.

“We check on the school based assessments set by teachers for their own learners and then we check the quality of that.

‘From there, we advise where we see the need support and ensure they share good practices among themselves.”

The presentations were divided into four groups focusing on Languages; Foundation Phase, covering Grade R to Grade 3; Mathematics, Science and Technology as well as the Humanities, which includes EMS, Life Orientation and Life Skills.

Grade 3 was picked for the assessments as it is the exit level for the foundation phase.

Grade 6 is the preparatory year to complete primary education in Grade 7.


Masks no longer mandatory when outdoors



Staff Reporter

South Africans will no longer be required to wear masks while outdoors, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night when he gave an update on national efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wearing of masks indoors however remains mandatory.

“As before, it is mandatory to wear a cloth mask or similar covering over the nose and mouth when in public indoor spaces,” said Ramaphosa in a televised address.

“However, a mask is not required when outdoors,” he added.

“This means that we still need to wear masks when in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxes, buses, trains or any other indoor public space.

“But we do not need to wear masks when walking on the street or in an open space, when exercising outdoors or when attending an outdoor gathering.”

The president said after four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation.

He said there are far fewer deaths than before.

“Our scientists tell us that this is mainly because some 60 to 80 percent of the population has some form of immunity to the virus, either from previous infection or vaccination . . . we are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.

About 48 percent of all adults are believed to have received at least one vaccine dose.

Further to that, both indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50 percent of their capacity provided that the criteria for entrance are proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours.

“But where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a COVID test, then the current upper limit will remain – of 1 000 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors,” he explained.

This change to the restrictions on gatherings, according the president, will be of great benefit to the sporting, cultural, entertainment and events industries, among others.

The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral will increase from 100 to 200.

However, night vigils as well as after-funeral and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are still not allowed.

The regulations on social distancing are also being changed, requiring that a space of one metre is maintained between persons in all settings except schools.

There are also changes to the regulations on international travel.

Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.

All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.

All measures are taking effect from this Wednesday.

Ramaphosa said in deciding which restrictions to ease and which to keep in place, they  also looked to the experiences of other countries, including those where the complete lifting of restrictions has been followed by a surge in infections and deaths.

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Man gets six life terms for raping own daughter



Staff Reporter

A 36-year-old man from Clocolan has been sentenced to six life terms by the Free State High Court after he was found guilty of raping his 14-year-old daughter.

In a statement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said Judge Pina Mathebula sentenced the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his daughter, for raping her six times between May and July 2021.

“The victim was staying with the accused, his wife, who is her stepmother, and two other siblings,” read part of the statement issued by NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping on Thursday.

“In May 2021, the accused told his wife that his late brother told him in a dream ‘to get rid of a tokoloshe that was inside the victim’. The very same night of the alleged dream, the accused raped the victim. The last rape incident took place on 25 July 2021,” added the statement.

The court, sitting in Ladybrand, heard that the wife tried to reprimand him but he assaulted her.

As if not enough, he overpowered and raped the victim, despite her cries and his wife’s reprimands.

He threatened to kill both of them if they were to tell anyone of what he did.

A day later, the accused’s sister visited the family and the wife told her what the husband had done to the child.

The sister reported his brother to the police and he was arrested.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Advocate Moipone Moroka submitted a victim impact report facilitated by Bulelani Mothabeng in which the victim said that she thanks her aunt for coming to her rescue because if it was not for her, she would still be her father’s sex slave.

Moroka further argued that the scourge of violence against women and children has reached an alarming proportion and can be described as a pandemic.

“What aggravates the matter is that the father raped his own daughter multiple times over a period of three months and this means he had ample opportunity to reflect on his actions, but he continued betraying the trust his daughter had in him,” said Moroka.

The father was sentenced to six life sentences for rape and two years for assault and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

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Premier mourns journalist



Staff Reporter

Premier Sisi Ntombela has described the late SABC journalist Thabo Katsande as a disciplined, dedicated and hardworking man.

She said this in her special tribute to Katsande, who was based in Bloemfontein, during a memorial service held at the Rose Hall at the Mangaung Metropolitan offices on Thursday.

The journalist passed away at a Pretoria hospital last Saturday following a short illness.

“The Thabo I knew was focused on his work,” said an emotional Ntombela.

“The Thabo I knew was passionate about his trade and wanted to see journalism, particularly in the Free State, grow in leaps and bounds,” she added.

The premier took the opportunity to urge people to value their work and strive to improve their communities as the province is faced with a high unemployment rate.

“We live in an era where some people do not value their jobs . . . and a sense of entitlement has consumed them. Thabo’s work ethic was admirable,” she pointed out.

Ntombela described Katsande as a fearless and fair journalist who showed both the good and the bad through his work.

“Through his work, Thabo helped us to tell . . . the Free State story,” she said.

“He captured the minds of the people with the way he told our stories, the good and the bad.

“The beautiful and the not so beautiful – Thabo told it all, without fear or favour.

“The media fraternity has lost a giant and . . . it will be poorer without him.

“No longer shall we see that charismatic man running around with a camera looking for that perfect shot.”

Katsande will be laid to rest in Bluemgumbosch, eastern Free State, this Saturday.

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