Students yearn for face to face learning

Johannesburg- A study by the University of Cape Town has shown that 80 percent of SA students are ready to return to face-to-face learning after the pandemic subsides.

This, while Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, announced on Friday that Covid-19 vaccinations for the 12- to 17-year-old cohort will open up on Wednesday.

An announcement that has been welcomed by Education Unions, who are hopeful that school can now go back to normal.

The UCT Liberty Institute of Strategic Marketing survey found that the activity that students were most looking forward to in a post-pandemic era was a return to face-to-face learning. This was followed by attending parties and concerts.

They interviewed more than 1 400 students, and nearly two-thirds of those studying felt that their ability to learn had worsened during the pandemic.

Commenting on the findings, one of the study’s authors, Dr James Lappeman, said: “Many students are clearly struggling. Besides the obvious practical challenges associated with online learning, many are also recognising the importance of the social aspects of learning and interacting with peers.”

Anxiety and stress were also evident in the study, which found that financial pressure, difficulty adapting to online learning, and Covid-19 related fears were contributing to anxious states.

The study also found much dissatisfaction with online forms of learning with many also felt that the quality of education had deteriorated.

Paul Egan from the UCT Liberty Institute of Strategic Marketing said students felt like they were missing out on a time when lifelong memories were being made, milestones reached and important friendships forged. “Instead they find themselves in relative isolation, struggling to remain motivated and get into a routine. Some students even said they had become socially anxious.”

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa Executive Director Basil Manuel said what they want to see is a return to greater normality.

“We waited to see when this will happen. The over the sixties are still sitting at under 60%. If the vaccination of the children is the thing that will make it happen it will become part of the agenda to discuss with the department of education. Having children vaccinated will settle parents and teachers minds. High school can return to normal next year,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer of the South African Teachers Union (SAOU) Chris Klopper said: “It will be to the advantage of the education system if as many as possible learners can be vaccinated thereby making the school environment safe, not only for other children but also for the teachers.

We welcome it one hundred percent. However, it will be difficult to make it mandatory as the legal position has not been clarified. Until such a time where there is legislation to enforce vaccination we can only abide by the principal that it is on a voluntary basis, but we are in favour of a hundred per cent vaccination rate.”

Teenagers in South Africa make up 11% of the population.

Phaala said though that for now only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be administered to this group because of one effect which is heart inflammation. He said the Ministerial Advisory Committee will advise regarding a second dose.

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