Adopt-a-School is a partner entity of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation and implements a Whole School Development Model in 446 schools currently. Since its establishment in 2002, the foundation has worked in over 600 schools across all nine provinces of South Africa.
Adopt-a-School’s survey revealed some of the following practical effects of the pandemic on learning and teaching:
Learners reported a loss of focus, depression, fatigue and increased pressure and anxiety as a result. Among subjects learners felt most unprepared for in the final examinations, were mathematics, mathematical literacy, accounting, life sciences and physical science. This is presumably because these subjects are done better in with contact teaching.
Schools mitigated the impacts of the pandemic in some of the following ways:
The pandemic further exposes the impact of South Africa’s inequalities on schooling, including in particular its digital divide. Learners from disadvantaged families demonstrably suffered most during the lockdown. Many learners, not only in rural settings but also in large urban areas, lack reliable, affordable internet access needed to aid learning. The pandemic has made online access to learning and teaching essential and urgent. Adopt-a-School has called on the business community to partner with it to provide learners and teachers in its programmes with data, devices and ICT training.
Among other Adopt-a-School recommendations to overcome the challenges to learning and teaching as has been reported, are:
As is clear, internet access alone is not sufficient to support learning and teaching. Of the learners who reported receiving support at home, this additionally included moral support, space and privacy, exclusion from household chores and private tutors. The absence of such support for many is rooted in socio-economic conditions that require transformation. In the immediate, attention should be paid to how parents and caregivers may be supported. Parents and caregivers are a central and powerful educational partner. This partnership may ensure that even school closures cannot hinder the continued development of learners.
Year on year, from 2015 to 2019, the matric pass rate of schools supported by Adopt-a-School’s Whole School Development programme has successively improved, from 77% in 2015 to 86% in 2019. Indeed, as an external review by Trialogue of Whole School Development implemented at IDC supported schools highlighted in 2018, 80% of respondents indicated that the matric average “had significantly increased” as a result of Adopt-a-School interventions. The decline in the 2020 results is indicative of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is also of the efficacy of a holistic approach to education as implemented by Adopt-a-School. The 80% pass rate by the schools in its programme, 40% of which are bachelor passes, affirms the model against the ravages of the pandemic.
Whole School Development is an integrated and holistic model that addresses the development of effective leadership and management systems, infrastructure, educator skills, and improved learner well-being and safety. The model’s effectiveness is shown in particular in the Free State, where it is implemented by KST, a partnership of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, Kagiso Trust and the Free State Department of Education. The Motheo and Fezile Dabi districts where the model is being implemented have consistently been among the top-performing districts nationally, including in 2020.
Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and an unequal and decidedly uncertain world, the future is here. 21st-century learning and teaching calls for the fast-tracking of digital skills and resources and efforts to overcome the digital divide and the other inequalities that impact education. Robust collaboration between Government, the private sector and non-profit organisations is how the holistic development of schools is possible as Adopt-a-School shows. This partnership needs to be sustained and expanded.