School weathers the storm of pandemic

School weathers the storm of pandemic

By Madli Grobbelaar

“Notre Dame St Peter’s School did plan to reopen on 1June,” say Zunelle de Ru, executive head. “But on Sunday, 31 May, a letter from the National Catholic Board of Education recommended strongly that in the light of uncertainty from the minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, the school should not reopen.”

De Ru says the main concern to the Notre Dame St Peter’s School (NDSPS) was that, although the school complied with all Covid-19 requirements, the learners make use of public transport, which was an area that still needed attention. The school reopened for Gr.7 and Gr.12 learners on Monday (08/06).

The NDSPS, an Independent Examinations Board (IEB) school, did not receive any new applications from learners in public schools, although several requests were received to make learning material the school distributes to its learners, from Gr.R to Gr.12, available for learners from other schools.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on several areas of our school,” says De Ru. Academically, the school faces the challenge of covering the curriculum in the time remaining for the year.  This places tremendous stress on both teachers and learners.

As an IEB school, the NDSPS’s learners are subjected to school-based assessments that differ from those for learners in public school. These assessments are more practically inclined, to prepare learners for life after school, and learners are expected to do broad research to complete these assessments successfully. This increases the pressure on teachers to ensure that the assessments are still set according to the expected standard of the IEB, to sufficiently prepae the learners for the final examinations. This is the only school in the Fezile Dabi district that writes the IEB exit exams. The NDSPS is a low-fee independent school serving a faith-based education. School fees are kept as low as possible to accommodate all sections of the society. Despite this, the school has suffered a financial blow, due to parents not being able to afford school fees in the current economic situation, worsened by the pandemic. The ongoing ucertainty caused by the pandemic and the resulting lockdown has been extremely stressful for all members of school management, educators, parents and learners. Therefore, the NDSPS is providing psychological and emotional support. Debriefing sessions have been arranged for teachers and learners.

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