It was clear that Zenex needed to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown which began in the first school term on 18 March 2020. Three days’ notice of the impending lockdown was not sufficient time for most schools to plan how learners could continue learning from home, as well as what resources would be necessary to enable this. It is estimated that over 50% of teaching and learning time has been lost during the lockdown and during the intermittent re-opening of schools from 8 June 2020.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) prioritised saving what was left of the academic year by trimming the curriculum and revising the school calendar in order to recover from the lost time. With evidence of prior learner academic backlogs, which are cumulative from the early grades, and in line with Zenex’s ethos to support the DBE in their efforts, we are proudly up and running with the Senior Phase COVID-19 Curriculum Recovery Project for Grade 8 and 9 learners in our priority areas of English and Mathematics.
Project Duration: September 2020–December 2021
Location: Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal
Our implementing New Leaders Foundation, CASME, Schools Development Unit,
Partners: Maths & Science Infinity, Tsebo Education Network, Wendy Heard
The project offers the following forms of support:
Teachers are grappling with the sudden shift from teaching a set curriculum to working with the newly trimmed curriculum. To help them navigate the changing terrain, the project offers:
- Curriculum planning
- Classroom management and troubleshooting problems
- Orientation to rotational and virtual teaching (where possible)
- Management of resources for home and in-school learning
- Provision of teaching resources for classroom learning and home practice
Supporting School Management Teams (SMTs)
SMTs are critical to keeping schools running smoothly during and post the pandemic, and as such, will be supported to:
- Manage COVID-19 health and safety protocols in schools
- Provide curriculum oversight and efficient timetabling to reach all learners during rotational schooling
- Use the District Data Dashboard for evidence-based management of schools
The project also offers:
- A project hotline for problem-solving managed by project implementing partners, to provide teachers and SMTs immediate guidance and support where needed.
- Psycho-social support for learners, teachers and SMTs to manage the stress and anxiety brought about by the realities of the pandemic. Support is given through group coaching and via hotline.
Communities of Practice facilitated by project implementing partners for teachers and SMTs to share best practices and resources
Schools were selected based on the following functionality criteria:
- Good infrastructure
- Stable school management
- Buy-in from teachers and principals
- Having strong District support
One hundred schools in four districts across four provinces (25 schools each in Johannesburg Central District, Gauteng; Buffalo City District, Eastern Cape, iLembe District, KwaZulu-Natal, and Metro East District, Western Cape) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing to the project. All districts have appointed District Champions to drive project implementation in the schools.
Principles that guided the focus and design of the project
- Alignment of the revised curriculum: The project takes into account each Province, District, Circuit and schooling community’s background and nuances, which are used to develop contextually relevant support mechanisms.
- Collaboration: The need for close collaboration with Subject Advisers to support District goals, objectives and priorities.
- Support and relevance: Project activities must support curriculum implementation and use of available resources. Where necessary, the project will develop resources aligned to the needs of the schools.
- Sustainable value: Communities of practice and peer support are intended to add to the sustainability of the intervention.
- Ensuring the health and safety of all project stakeholders: The project will support the management of school health and safety measures to enable teaching and learning to take place.
- Protecting psychological needs: Zenex has foregrounded the need to take cognisance of and address issues such as anxiety, fear and uncertainty in the engagement between implementing partners and beneficiaries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has implications for how schools are managed, how teaching and learning take place, and how best external support can be conducted. The impact of the pandemic has meant that NPOs and donors need to rethink modes of delivery. The COVID-19 Senior Phase Curriculum Recovery Project is the first step in this direction. The project will be evaluated to draw lessons on rolling out effective curriculum recovery programmes.