Cancelling schools’ October break isn’t only cruel, it’s stupid

Ideas

Cancelling schools’ October break isn’t only cruel, it’s stupid

As it ignores the real problems faced by SA schooling, the government’s crackpot idea will only make things worse

Columnist

Have you ever tried to teach several classes for six hours a day for 50 days straight? You will drop to the floor out of sheer exhaustion. Now imagine you have a brutal, cold-hearted employer who then decides to take away a burnout-saving break of 11 days as you are forced to return to put in all your energy to prepare the many children in your charge for the final examination of their young lives, now merely weeks away. It’s the type of mercilessness you’d expect from the Taliban in Afghanistan, which recently told western journalists, with a straight face, that it is about to respect the rights of women and give girls access to education. I am not suggesting the department of basic education (DBE) is like the Taliban, just the straight face bit — that they really care about those under their rule(r).

I am not surprised several of our teacher unions rejected this highly irresponsible decision. The scheduled term runs from July 26 to October 1. There was supposed to be a much-needed break from October 1 to 11, but now another week (October 4 to 8) of teaching has been scheduled. The umpteenth lockdown meant five days of teaching were lost earlier this year and this cancellation of the October break is meant to “make up” for those missed days.

It is a mindless decision on the part of the DBE, coming from bureaucrats in air-conditioned offices who either never taught in real schools or did so decades ago, before there was an overcrowded CAPS curriculum and a teacher’s day was swallowed up by far too much administration. The decision is also based on the dangerous myth that when schools close during lockdown all teachers are on a glorious, unexpected and paid holiday. What nonsense. The teachers I know tried to teach remotely, others caught up with much-needed preparation and not a few threw themselves into catching up with assessments that were piling up because they were making up lost teaching time. ..

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