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The new ‘Lost Generation’ of pupils – How COVID-19 has poured rocket fuel on the education system

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The Coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating effect on the education system and the training of the youth. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 70% of students who are currently studying or combine their studying with work have been negatively affected by the closing of schools, universities and training centres, according to an analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Being a third-world country, South Africa has been hit even harder by the pandemic especially when it comes to the education system. The closure of schools has further exposed how lob-sided the education sector in our country really is. In a new report, 

Failing to learn lessons: The impact of COVID-19 on a broken and unequal education system, it is clearly highlighted how learners in poorer communities have simply been removed from education especially due to the extended closure of schools. Only 10% of households in the country have access to the internet. When we delve deeper it is not just access to internet connectivity that is a massive problem, most schools do not even have access to running water or proper sanitation and how can social distancing be implemented in schools where classrooms are overcrowded and schools are struggling to keep head above water and just get access to basic resources Mr President?

Going forward we will be dealing with a ‘lost generation’ of learners who will never be able to make up for lost time and non-existing resources. Nic Spaull, a researcher at Stellenbosch University stated that learners at 80% of public schools are only going to classes every second or third day and the average grade 3 learner in June 2021 knows about the same as the average grade 2 learner in 2019! Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made the promise that 582 000 teachers will be vaccinated by the 8th of July 2021 in an effort to kickstart the education sector again. But this still does not solve all the other problems and gaping holes in our system.

Schools closed their gates and classroom doors for the first time in March 2020 for almost three months and online learning was the new normal, bearing in mind that only 22% of households have a computer and we have already touched on the shocking statistic of internet connectivity. The North West and Limpopo have been left in the dark the most, only 3.6% and 1.6% of learners in these two provinces have access to the internet at home… Over and above the problematic situation to basic resources for online learning, so many learners around the country rely on meals that they receive at schools which have now also been taken away from them.

The so-called ‘lost generation’ will never be able to make up for lost time which will in future affect job opportunities and skilled labour to lead the different industries in South Africa. We are all aware that the R500 billion COVID relief fund has apparently vanished into thin air with no explanation as to where it really went. More than a year down the line and there is still no proper vaccine roll-out plan for the rest of the country, the economy is being crippled more than it has ever been and the last line item on the list of importance is education. As the rest of the world is recovering from a global pandemic South Africa is only being dumped further into a deep dark abyss, with no real light at the end of the tunnel. Inequality has played a role for too long. It is time that our so-called leaders step up!

The new ‘Lost Generation’ of pupils – How COVID-19 has poured rocket fuel on the education system


Inge Liebenberg




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