10 April update from the principal

BY Mrs K. Stear

10 April 2020
Dear Parents and Learners
I am sure that you are aware that President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended the lockdown to the end of April. This means that school may possibly reopen on the 4th May.
A new chapter in education has begun for not only South Africa, but for the world. This is a learning curve for us all, teachers, learners and parents, as we navigate together new methods of teaching and learning.
I would like to thank and encourage our learners who have risen so admirably to the challenge and have been working diligently at home, with their teachers to guide them through WhatsApp groups and the d6.
We also have a group of Old Girls from the Class of 2019 that are able to assist as tutors and mentors to the matric class of 2020. Tamia Smit, Casey Els, Monique Balie, Zeenat Lukie, Lerise Johnson, Meaghan Botha, Tara Wood and Sihlumile Majombozi, as well as Nicola McEwan, Headgirl of the class of 2014. The contact details for these mentors can be found on the d6. We salute you, Old Girls! Your kindness is heartwarming in these bleak times.
Distance learning comes with its own set of unique challenges and we urge learners not to be too hard on themselves if they are struggling to keep up with the workload. We acknowledge that many of our learners have serious obstacles to overcome when working and studying at home. These obstacles include the possibility of distraction by young siblings, low data, no printer, overused devices, working from a small screen and no Wi-Fi, just to name a few. Keep on working at a steady pace, girls, without panic and feelings of insecurity.
Mentally and emotionally, we need to take care of ourselves and to nurture a gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions arising in us at this time. We are going through a collective trauma, which is bringing up grief, loss, panic over livelihoods and the possible loss of life. We need more self-compassion in this time when our normality has been turned upside down and uncertainty makes sustained concentration a challenge.  Anxiety may manifest in a variety of ways including anger, lack of focus, procrastination, difficulty sleeping, blame of others, avoidance, negativity and/or over-planning.  We encourage our parents and learners to monitor these behaviours. 
I thank our parents for their unstinting support of their daughters in these past weeks and for making great efforts to help with their studies. Parent involvement is crucial at this time. That does not mean that you as the parent can or should take the place of the teacher. You are there to give moral support to your daughter/s and to make them feel that they are not alone and that you are there to assist them in any way that you are able to. I urge parents to get involved in their daughter’s studies and to monitor their progress.  I acknowledge that this is difficult for parents who are essential workers and we thank them for their services and sacrifices. 
The teachers have spent many hours creating distance learning lessons or worksheets, answering questions forwarded to them, providing memos and answers and working out innovative ways to provide meaningful work to the learners. This is something new to them and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for being willing to take on acquiring new skills. Teachers, keep up the sterling work!
This work is not yet done. New work may need to be loaded onto the d6 in the coming weeks and the d6 should be monitored frequently (It is zero-rated for MTN incurring no data costs). Note, parents and learners, that we are considering many, many factors when deciding to put work on: whether it is necessary, whether it is needed for further grades or assessments, whether it can be done with limited interaction, whether our learners can access it readily, whether they have the resources to do the work etc.  Careful thought is going into what is essential in each subject and what can be discarded for now.  We also want you know that subjects where problem solving and critical thinking are involved will require more work at home than subjects where the syllabus is easily trimmed or adapted. 
As we embark on these new methods of teaching, I ask you all to refrain from publicly scrutinizing teachers for the way they are teaching or the lessons and worksheets they are assigning.  Please offer grace to the teacher as education is our number one priority. Our teachers love teaching and are doing their absolute best.  Different subjects require different approaches.  The teachers are working hard to provide a balanced education while recognizing the difficulties our learners are experiencing and the challenges being faced.  Do give our teachers the benefit of the doubt. 
The Minister and Deputy Minister of Basic Education had a telephone conference with associations of school governing bodies on 8 April 2020 to share and discuss contingency plans. The following is a brief summary of important aspects that were discussed. Up until the President announced the extension to the lockdown last night, the Department of Basic Education was preparing two scenarios:
The lockdown ends from 17 April and only 16 school days have been lost; and
The lockdown is extended and a possible 52 days may be lost.
We know now that the first scenario is no longer an option.  Making up lost time or adjusting the curriculum are options being considered.  The curriculum content may have to be presented over a longer period and a combination of curriculum content presented in different grades over two years, that is during 2020-2021, so that curriculum delivery can return to normal in 2022.
Final decisions affecting these issues will be made by DBE curriculum heads, in consultation with all stakeholders, and we are impressed by the planning and considerations.  It is clear that the learners’ best interests are at the forefront of all the planning. 
The Minister emphasised that parents who are obligated to pay school fees remain under obligation to pay unless they have applied for exemption and an exemption has been granted in accordance with the School Fee Exemption Regulations.  Schools are under financial pressure and are likely to experience increasing pressure as time goes on.
The DBE will provide basic hygiene packages to all schools to ensure that they have effective sanitisers and disinfectants. Governing Bodies have been directed to ensure that schools are properly disinfected before schools reopen.
I would like add a special mention of our youngest learners in the junior grades.  Juniors, your teachers are missing you and we hope that you are reading a lot, helping out at home with chores and keeping yourself busy by doing your school work.  Remember that you are special and we will help you when you return to school with catching up with the work. 
In closure, I encourage you all to take any positives you are able to out of these seemingly negative times. Enjoy close time with your families and be gentle with each other. Connect with one another on meaningful levels and spent time on reflection and meditation. I especially challenge the Riebeek girls to include some physical activity into their programme for each day as a healthy body creates a healthy mind.
Above all, stay at home and stay safe. This too shall pass.
Kind regards
Kieran Stear

 April 10, 2020
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