Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
COVID-19 has put schools and the competency-based curriculum on the spotlight as learning institutions are proving they can churn out learners who can effectively address problems afflicting society.
The curriculum introduced in 2017 aims at identifying pupils’ skills and harnessing them as opposed to producing learners who are only good at memorising theoretical works while failing to integrate to life after school.
With the Ordinary Level pass rate hovering at around 25 percent, hundreds of pupils were leaving schools deemed as ‘failures’ and struggled to fit in society.
The Government has said the manufacturing of face masks, hand sanitisers and metal hands washing stands by schools is proof that the competency-based curriculum was a success.
Speaking on Friday at Matabeleland North Province Chapter of the Covid-19 Schools Response Plan at Fatima High School, Lupane district, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said Covid-19 has allowed schools to prove their societal importance.
“This coronavirus pandemic has given schools an opportunity to demonstrate the skills development thrust that is now core to our new curriculum. For some who may be saying what are the schools doing producing personal protective equipment (PPE), the answer is in the new competency-based curriculum which is designed to equip learners with knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and competences for life and work,” said Minister Mathema.
“The school curriculum that we abandoned focused mainly on the acquisition of knowledge, and for the 75 percent who did not pass Ordinary Level, their lives became bleak. Society continuously encouraged them to write supplementary examinations in order to get to the magical five subjects but this was not possible for the majority. And yet in each coming year, another 7 percent of O-Level learners would be thrown onto the streets.”
He said even some who managed to pass the public examinations, also contributed to a huge number of unemployed people as they also did not acquire life skills but were trained to join the society as employees.
“The competency-based curriculum is a game changer. It seeks to equip learners with skills to be able to employ themselves if need be. Our current scenario where many learners are able to produce masks is a case in point. I have witnessed also a number of schools that are now producing hand-washing stations using their Metal Technology and Design Departments,” he said.
“The hand wash stations are foot-operated to avoid the use of taps which would need to be operated by hands that may be contaminated. These are wonderful innovations by teachers and their pupils. It is important for schools to use teaching and learning to contribute to responses to challenges in communities as best as they can.”
Minister Mathema said while schools are producing PPE, they should never compromise on quality but follow guidelines as enunciated by health experts.
He hailed the partnerships between schools and universities saying such synergies can contribute towards the development of the country.
Minister Mathema said guided by the national Covid-19 response, the Ministry would soon roll out the five-phase approach to the reopening of schools.
He said Phase 1 will target examination classes of 2020, Grade 7, Forms 4 and 6, while Phase 2 will target examination classes of 2021, Grade 6, Forms 3 and 5. Phase 3 will include Grades 3-5 and Forms 1 and 2 while Phase 4 will target Grades 1 and 2 and Phase Five will be rolled out for Early Childhood Development classes.
At the same function was Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Matabeleland North Cde Richard Moyo who commended schools for contributing towards fighting Covid-19 through producing PPE.
“Let me say that I am delighted that the involvement of learners in the production of the PPE is very critical in the sense that apart from helping fight this pandemic. This initiative helps turn our schools into productive units. May I appeal that these production units continue even after the Covid-19 pandemic era. This will make the livelihoods of many of our learners to be uplifted as they also gain the critical life skills,” said Minister Moyo.
He encouraged Matabeleland North residents to contribute towards flattening of the Covid-19 curve by strictly observing Covid-19 regulations.
During the event schools exhibited products such as sanitisers, face masks, hand-washing stations all designed towards fighting the spread of Covid-19.
The Covid-19 Schools Response Plan was attended Matabeleland North Provincial Education Director Mr Jabulani Mpofu, school representatives in Matabeleland North districts, educationists and other stakeholders involved in the health sector. — @nqotshili