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Poor pupils locked out of digital classrooms miss out on school work

Siphosethu Kwayimani, 16, at home in Soweto during the lockdown. / ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Siphosethu Kwayimani, 16, at home in Soweto during the lockdown. / ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Pupils from poor backgrounds are losing out on their school work as they can't afford to access digital classrooms to catch up with their studies as schools are closed across the country.

Siphosethu Kwayimani has dedicated three hours a day to catch up with his studies through self-study. The 16-year-old grade 9 pupil from Motsoaledi township in Soweto said his school did not give him any work to do during the lockdown.

"At home we don't have the DStv for me to watch learning programmes and I don't even have data to go online. Every day from 9am until midday I make it a point to read my books. There are free apps that offer assistance in maths and natural science that I use. They give us past examination papers which sometimes helps me, but it has been difficult not to have access to online learning," he said.

Siphosethu is one of many township pupils who have to self-study as they are not getting any work from their teachers, can't afford data or don't have smartphones.

In Soweto yesterday, a number of pupils were playing in the street.

Nkabetse Chabalala, 10, a grade 3 pupil, said they were not given textbooks by their teachers. She shares a one-room shack with her mother and two siblings at Diepkloof Hostel. "Our teacher told us to leave our textbooks [at school] because if it rains they will be wet. I don't know what do now and that's why I spend my day playing with my friends," Nkabetse said.

But the situation is different for Thato Telite, 15, a grade 10 pupil from Pimville.

Thato is on a WhatsApp chat group where he and fellow pupils are able to do the school work that their teachers give them every day.

The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) proposed that pupils be given a government SIM card with free data so that they can also access online learning.

Cosas national convenor Katleho Mangoejane said: "Many of our learners from disadvantaged backgrounds don't have access to the internet or other learning
resources. We therefore proposed that matriculants be
admitted to tertiary institutions based on their September results."

Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department and its partners have made great strides to reach out to as many pupils as possible with the provision of curriculum support during the Covid-19 lockdown.

"The department has used 123 radio stations and six different television channels with a total reach of more than 35-million people," said Mhlanga yesterday.

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