St Dominics Newcastle rises to the challenge during national lockdown

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As South African persevere through the 21-day national lockdown, there are parents and school children who are questioning when schools will re-open again.

On March 26, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga explained the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) are deliberating the issue and the date will most likely be revealed after the lockdown period has come to an end.

However, the department says it will be guided by the National Command Council before confirming the date when schools will reopen.

Furthermore, the department is also embarking on alternatives to ensure learning continues while learners are at home, especially Grade 12 learners who need to prepare for their final exams.

Motshekga explained the department, in collaboration with its regional offices, has prepared online and broadcast support resources, with subject content and a focus on Grade 12 pupils. Some of the programmes are expected to be available as of today April 1.

Furthermore, the department claimed it was working closely with key partners, such as SABC TV and Radio, DStv and Community Radio stations.

Motshekga says the content has been carefully curated to be available online and for broadcast, adding that it will be made available on various platforms.

As the Department of Education looks at ways at ensuring children’s schoolwork does not fall at the wayside, there are educational institutes which are doing their part to ensure children are able to keep up to date with their schoolwork. One such educational institute is Curro.

Curro has launched the Remote Learning Programme to assist all children, both from an academic and skills extension viewpoint.

“Remote learning at St Dominics will see the use of various platforms to educate our children. These include WhatsApp’s groups, miEbooks. Microsoft Teams, myCyberwall, myHub, ClassDojo and emails as a method of engagement and information sharing. Our staff started the preparation process in Term 1 and spent time during the holidays upskilling their tech skills so as to be ready for the new adventure,” explains the Executive Head of St Dominics Newcastle, Bryn Thomas.

What does the programme entail and which grades does it focus on?

Mr Thomas explains each subject, grade and phase have their classwork for Term 2 set up; so that all those in the class can communicate work and update each other.

“Student receive most of their information needed via video, PowerPoint presentations, or on the team’s platforms. Being table literate and having access to their work on-line, means that work can take place in a two-way form, as would normally be done in the classroom. We start all the way from our Group 3’s (2-year olds who are two turning three) and work with our learners all the way up to our Grade 12’s.”

Mr Thomas adds that much of what happens with St Dominics Newcastle’s Nursery School children is fun activity-based, with parents able to join in if they so wish, up to the school’s Grade 12s, whose orientation is much more academic-focused.

What is expected of the learners?

Mr Thomas explains the learners must be committed to complete work set on the due dates and submit evidence thereof.

“They also need to engage with the learning material, for example, watch videos, ask questions, and so forth. We want our children to be stimulated by the academic content, but we also want to continue to teach them valuable skills, such as organization and responsibility.”

In the Nursery School, work is emailed to the parents using Microsoft Outlook Emails and MyHub.

The focus is on entertainment, awareness and involvement.  Games will be played and exploration through play will take place, with nursery rhymes being used as a method to re-enforce themes taught.

In the Foundation Phase, the school’s focus will be on the Core subjects, to keep the children reading and practising their Mathematical Skills, using the Numbersense books. 

“Our teachers have carefully put together exciting lessons that children are stimulated and enjoy the new methods of teaching,” Mr Thomas adds.

In the Senior Primary, the children have been taught passwords for work in IT, linking to Teams and on My Cyberwall.  These platforms allow for an interactive approach where the children can interact and communicate directly with their teachers. 

 Why does Mr Thomas feel programmes such as this are so important for school children?

“It allows our students to continue learning outside the classroom, and it is a great taste of what is coming to the future of education within the Curro fold. Learning and innovation go hand in hand at Curro, and our planning has been done in such a way that we are still able to communicate and interact with our children.” 

Furthermore, Mr Thomas explains skills, such as pacing oneself per day and week, to work carefully, to work independently, and to be organised, are skills that St Dominics Newcastle are re-enforcing strongly through this process.

“This is a new and exciting adventure that we are facing, as teachers, and children rise to the challenge and confidently forge their own paths of communication and work ethic. Teaching is never dull, always exciting, and at the heart of things it is about finding the best method to reach and stimulate our children, the future is in our hands,” Mr Thomas concludes.


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