Independent Education Summer 2021

64 Independent Education • Summer 21 Back to basics is the key as we contemplate a post-COVID-19 world BY MICHELLE VAN DER MERWE Where does post-COVID-19 education ½X MR [LIR XLI KSZIVRQIRX LEW WS QER] fundamental issues to address? H oly Family College Grade 10 learner, Luthando Khumalo, sees equal access to good education for all South Africans as a basic requirement. She states: Is the South African Department of Education ready for this kind of change? I think not. Yes, turning towards more technology in schools would be beneficial, at most, but right now, it’s a luxury if parents still have to pay school fees…The mere fact that parents would rather pay three to five times more in school fees than the average public school fees, to ensure their children get a ‘proper education’ is an indicator of the huge educational inequality that we face. Fight for equality before technology. The root of the problem cannot be ignored Due to educational inequality exacerbated by COVID-19, thousands of learners have dropped out of school in South Africa. Social unrest in 2021 radically increased the number of dropouts. How do we address the ever-increasing school drop-out rate? Khumalo has thought about the problem in the following way: The unrest has triggered an uncomfortable situation between certain race groups in our country. The rainbow nation is disappearing because the angle of sunlight has changed. Instead of us changing with the angle and following [the] late Nelson Mandela’s dream, we have remained stagnant and who knows how long it will be until the sun shines on that exact angle? The unrest has turned this country into a restless society. Where is ubuntu ? Where is the love? We need action! Fast The call to action is not only the responsibility of government or the Department of Education. It also includes complex educational reforms. While that is on the macro-scale and leaders will need time and energy to create, implement and monitor sweeping policies, at the school level we need to deal with the immediate needs of our pupils. In our schools we need to get back to basics, such as simple practices that foster healing – stress debriefing sessions, journaling, prayer, outreach programmes, nature, arts and music. We are a haptic species, meaning that we are wired for touch. However, the pandemic has changed this. Our society is fragmented. It is falling apart. We need to equip our learners and offer them activities that will assist with the healing process. When healing takes place, this will enable them to connect, firstly with the inner self, and then with one another. Stress debriefing Holy Family College allows for a stress debriefing session amongst the primary school learners. The Grade 1 learners were first allowed to chat amongst themselves. The conversation included topics such as gun violence, stealing and staying at home (lockdown). Dialogues and drawing sessions took place without any judgement being passed about the activities being depicted. The purpose of the exercise was to allow the learners to ‘unburden’ themselves. Initially, the general mood was one of fear amongst these learners, who did not regard the events being shown as at all funny. The Grade 1 teacher explains: I had read up on the wonders of allowing the children to draw a picture of an event, as this allows you to ‘see’ into their events without further prompting. Some children drew pictures of people smiling with large shopping bags while others drew pictures of children crying, blood and guns. Figure 1: A robber in a shop stealing, with a car waiting to take away the goods