A township school’s fight against Covid-19

The extensive list of preventative measures schools have to comply with to be Covid-ready and the onerous task for educators to ensure learners don’t suffer academically or psychologically is a mammoth task. Teachers, school bodies and parents have to brave many different roles to take on new tasks and responsibilities without much warning or preparation.

Some schools have met these new demands better than most – often those that don’t lack funding or resources such as private schools or the more affluent public schools in suburban communities. But, what about the lower-income schools such as those in the rural areas and informal settlements that cater to the poorest of our society?

One such school to come up with innovative ways to help assist learners and their parents during this strange and unprecedented time is Nokuphila Pre-Primary and Primary School in Tembisa. Central to the work of The Love Trust, a not-for-profit organisation focusing on delivering quality Christian education, Nokuphila School caters for the poorest of the poor in the community who have borne the brunt of the worst of the pandemic sweeping through the country.

Most learners come from families where they do not have anything or very little to eat. For some of them the meals received at school are the only ones they’ll have until they come back to school the following morning. So, the provision of meals is very important and really touches these children… Funding and donations really go a long way in making this happen.

The start of June saw the return of grade 7 learners as part of the phased return to school. This posed several different challenges that staff at Nokuphila have risen to meet. For the first two days when learners returned the sparkle in their eyes was no more. But as the week progressed, that liveliness and sparkle was back. Learners and teachers shared experiences of their time during lockdown. Some of those experiences included a lack of food, with many parents facing unemployment.

Learners don’t have access to the technology of the privileged schools, so teachers prepared workbooks for children to work at home. Some of the parents have little or no education at all so it’s difficult for children to get help from their parents. But now on returning to school the learners have the assistance they need. Nokuphila is also running a catch-up programme to help learners understand and gain work lost. That face-to-face interaction is helping bring back the enthusiasm and their general wellbeing.

Along with the catch-up programme, learners will be tested to see how much of the previous curriculum they’ve retained during the lockdown. They are seated accordingly in the classrooms to ensure special attention and extra care is given.

Themba Temba, Principal at Nokuphila Primary School, shares his personal experience and observations of the grade 7 learners and teachers adapting to the new rules and preventative measures they’ve implemented at the school.

Before Covid-19 learners were so excited to come to school, but now their energies have been crushed and you can read this on their faces. You see the fear in their expression mixed with a happiness to be back at school. There were various emotions that they went through on the first day. But as the week went on, and they learned and understood what Covid-19 is and what they are expected to do, their energies and want to learn returned.

As the schools prepare for the next group of learners, the staff at Nokuphila are tirelessly refining their approach to these new circumstances while also searching for new ways that will better assist their learners and the teachers. Nokuphila and schools alike are to be commended for their dedication to not only the academic needs of their learners but their psycho-social needs as well.