Tag: education

Post-lockdown back to school chaos

Source: IOL

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has affirmed that pupils will return to school on June 8, next Monday.

The minister also apologised to the South African public after days of confusion about the reopening of schools.

Motshekga’s department had also postponed press conferences since Friday, which were expected to outline the department’s final pronouncement on the matter of schools reopening after teacher unions and many in the public had slammed the department’s plans to forge ahead with continuing with the 2020 academic year.

Motshekga stressed that any further delay to the school year would pose a serious threat to the academic year. She also said that continued postponement of continuing with the school year would impact negatively on poor pupils, especially, as they would be expected to write the same exam with everyone else.

This means that next Monday, June 8, all Grade 7 and 12 pupils are expected back to school.

A joint survey conducted by South Africa’s teacher unions showed that no more than 55% of principals reported being ready to resume teaching and learning when schools open on Monday.

The results of the survey, which was conducted to strengthen the collaboration between the Basic Education Department and unions who share the goal of ensuring that schools are safe for teachers and learners to return, fiound that in terms of provision of face masks, all provinces scored below 25 percent except Western Cape which scored 84 percent.

The leaked survey concluded that some challenges are common across as many as six provinces, such as:

  • Inadequate water for Covid-19 requirements (6 provinces)
  • Water tanks that are required not yet delivered (6 provinces)
  • Insufficient masks delivered (two per person) (8 provinces)

SA lags behind in tertiary education

By Sizwe Nxasana, chairman of IFSTAP

According to a report released by the Department of Higher Education and Training, only 1 901 people (out of every 100 000) attend tertiary education institutions, the lowest of the five BRICS countries.

The report also highlights the fact that the growth rate in university enrolment in 2016 was 1.6% and that, at this rate, we would fall short of reaching our target of 1.6 million enrolments as set out in the National Development Plan 2030.

One reason stated for this is the lack of access to these institutions by students from lower-middle income households, otherwise known as “the missing middle”.

BRICS
When the Department of Higher Education’s report was compared to similar statistics compiled by UNESCO on the various BRICS countries, South Africa was found to be lacking: 1,901 enrolments per 100 000 citizens, compared to Brazil (4,023), Russia (4,582), India (2,453) and China (3,104).

Relations among the BRICS countries are based on non-interference, equality and mutual benefit, but when faced with these statistics, is it any wonder how we could benefit ourselves, let alone our neighbours or the world at large, when our economic and global competitiveness is compromised to this extent.

The National Development Plan 2030
These statistics bring into sharp focus how much work still needs to be done, 25 years into our democracy.

The National Development Plan, a document written in August 2012, stated in its opening sentence that it: ‘… aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.’

It goes on to state: ‘This plan envisions a South Africa where everyone feels free yet bounded to others; where everyone embraces their full potential, a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work. Realising such a society will require transformation of the economy and focused efforts to build the country’s capabilities. To eliminate poverty and reduce inequality, the economy must grow faster and in ways that benefit all South Africans.’

The NDP envisaged a 70% increase in the participation rates at South African universities in order to increase the enrolment to 1.62 million by 2030. 25% of the enrolment should be students enrolled at post-graduate level. The NDP also envisages increases in student throughput and graduation rates to more than 75%. Throughout the NDP document, emphasis is placed on economic growth through the improvement of education quality and skills development. This, according to the NDP, can only be achieved by active citizenry, a concept where the government provides the basic foundation, structure and guidance, enabling the rest of society to make strides in the betterment and upliftment of themselves and those around them. Assisting each other to reach the heights of our capabilities and our fullest potential.

ISFAP
With 10 years remaining before 2030, it will not be possible for the government alone to achieve the objectives of the NDP. The Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) is an organisation aimed to support the objectives of the NDP, especially with regards to the university sector. ISFAP is mobilising the private sector and professional bodies to assist government with the funding of students who are unable to attend tertiary education institutions due to financial constraints.

ISFAP also offers the students support in terms of accommodation, medical services, allowances, life skills training, mentorships, study materials, etc. ISFAP Chairman, Sizwe Nxasana says, “We are focused on significantly improving access, success, graduation and employability for all funded students, especially from the ‘missing middle’. ISFAP specifically focuses on the scarce skills and students who are studying towards Occupations in High Demand (OHDs), which are skills and professions in short supply in our country and are therefore critical to the economic growth of South Africa.”

Growing South Africa’s skills base and supporting students from poor and middle-income families is critical to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy. Both government and the private sector have come together under ISFAP to fund students and help address issues of sustainable employment.

Nxasana adds, “Making sure that these students graduate and then assisting in sustainable employment afterwards, is our way of contributing to the vision as set out in the National Development Plan 2030.

Source: Boksburg Advertiser

The online system was introduced to make it easy and convenient for parents to submit applications rather than queue at a school. It has also provided accurate information to the department for planning purposes.

The online application for Grades One and Eight for the 2020 academic year will go live on May 13 at 8am and will close on July 15.

Parents are urged to use the online system and log on to www.gdeadmissions.gov.za

To make apply, parents should click on “Apply for 2020” and follow the prompts through the three-step process, namely:

Step 1 – Enter parent/legal guardian details
Step 2 – Enter learner details
Step 3 – Apply to a school

According to Gauteng education spokesperson, Steve Mabona, the applicant will be able to view, among others, the amendments to the admission regulations, terms and conditions and school feeder zones on the online system.

“At the same time, applicants can choose to listen to and view a step-by-step video tutorial and/or read a step-by-step user guide.

“Parents can also visit the nearest public school, district admissions centre, a community library or community centre for assistance with applying online.

“These walk-in centres will assist parents who are not comfortable with using computers, lack access to internet facilities or do not have adequate data.

“Our trained officials will assist parents in these centres,” said Mabona.

Applications are opened early to provide adequate time for planning of allocation of resources such as educators, classrooms and learning and teaching study materials.

Mabona said the capacity of the admission’s online application system has been increased to accommodate 50 000 simultaneous users.

Grade R
Mabona said parents or applicants with children in Grade R in the current school should also apply online.

“Applications for Grade Eight in schools of focused learning or schools of specialisation should also be made online. The system will show all schools and the applicant or parent will choose the relevant school and the reference number ‘WA6’ will be generated.

“The learner will, however, be subjected to an additional pre-qualification test at the relevant school, for instance by attending an audition at an arts school or writing a test.”

Furthermore, applications for boarding schools should also be made online. However, the applicant or parent must apply directly to the school for boarding or accommodation.

“Applications for Grade Eight at monastic, girls only or boys only schools should also be done online,” said Mabona.

Previous/current school will not be available as an application option. However, all Grade Eight applicants will indicate their current school.

“The system will measure the distance from the child’s current primary school to the closest secondary school. If the parent has applied to the secondary school closest to the current primary school, the system will place the applicant at that secondary school,” said Mabona.

Documents
Applicants and parents should submit the following documents to the school within seven working days:

Certified copy of the ID of the parent/legal guardian or a sworn affidavit in case the parent/legal guardian does not have an ID (non-South African citizens should submit a certified copy of their passport, valid visa or temporary/permanent residence permit/asylum seeker or refugee permit).
Proof of home address.
Certified copy of the child’s birth certificate (unabridged birth certificates are not required).
Clinic immunisation card if applying for Grade One.
Current school academic report and transfer if applying for Grade Eight.
Proof of sibling relationship where the sibling option is used.
Upon submission of documents, parents must sign a register to indicate that the documents were submitted and receive a confirmation of submission of documents receipt.

Placement process
Placement of learners by the department will take place from August 27 to September 20.

“Parents or applicants will receive an SMS notification of successful and unsuccessful application at the school.

“They have an obligation to accept or reject the placement offer within seven days. If a parent fails to accept or reject offer of placement within the given period, such a parent will forfeit the offer and it will be given to the next person in the queue,” said Mabona.

Mabona said spaces in schools are limited and are subject to how many learners currently in the school progress to the next grade.

As such, placement will be conducted on a first come, first served basis and on the following prioritisation:

  • home address closest to school within feeder zone
  • sibling at the school
  • work address within feeder zone
  • home address within 30km
  • home address is beyond 30km of the school.

The rankings are subject to the availability of space in the school.

Online system
The department has acknowledged that it has received criticism from some parents that the online system does not work.

“The department failed to communicate in time with the parent on the status of their application. We accept that the criticism is valid. Still, parents should understand that living closer to the school does not entitle a person to automatic admission.

“Placement will depend on the time the application was made and availability of space in the school. That is why we urge parents to apply on time to avoid frustration,” said Mabona.

President Jacob Zuma is planning to make a shock announcement‚ introducing free education across the board through a controversial funding plan that flies in the face of the findings of the Heher Commission‚ government insiders say.

The plan‚ apparently devised by Zuma’s future son-in-law‚ Morris Masutha‚ would also defy official ANC policy. It could see the cutting back of departmental budgets across government to make R40bn available for the 2018 academic year.

Zuma has been withholding the 748-page commission report‚ in which retired judge Jonathan Heher reportedly found that universal free tertiary education was not feasible.

The announcement is thought to be imminent but the presidency on Monday night said there were no plans by the president for any announcement on Tuesday.

Masutha‚ who is engaged to be married to Thuthukile Zuma‚ the president’s youngest daughter from his marriage to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma‚ referred questions to the National Treasury.

“I think you might want to get input from those respective departments [the Presidency‚ Higher Education and National Treasury).… And not me personally‚” he said.

The Department of Higher Education was not immediately available for comment.

Masutha‚ who has apparently acted as Zuma’s “point man” on the fees issue‚ has made presentations to ANC officials and an inter-ministerial Cabinet committee on his self-devised funding plan‚ which essentially revises the National Treasury’s entire budget.

It is understood that following Zuma’s sudden Cabinet reshuffle last month‚ Masutha was introduced to Higher Education and Training Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and Deputy Minister Buti Manamela‚ as the president’s “adviser”.

Zuma has apparently assigned Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and his director-general Mpumi Mpofu the task of implementing the plan‚ which requires cutbacks in departmental budgets to make funding available. Mpofu‚ who was appointed in July‚ is said to have been working with a team from the Treasury to “find the money for Zuma”.

A government insider said the matter was dealt with directly by the director-general outside of the ordinary work of the department.

If the plan proceeds‚ it is likely to cause chaos throughout the state system as budgets are allocated according to programmes.

It also undermines Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s statements when he presented the medium-term budget policy statement last month. He said a funding shortfall of more than R61bn over the next three years would be created if government were to finance the full cost of study for 40% of undergraduates.

He said further announcements on higher education funding would be made in the February budget.

If Masutha’s plan is adopted‚ it could be an instant trigger for a credit downgrade to junk status by ratings agencies.

But sources say Zuma has disregarded the National Treasury and the Heher Commission’s findings‚ and believes that his future son-in-law has found a solution to the higher education crisis.

Masutha is the founder of the Thusanani Foundation‚ an education nongovernmental organisation (NGO) working on addressing disparities in rural schools.

At his graduation ceremony at the University of Johannesburg‚ where he was receiving his master’s degree in local economic development‚ Masutha held up an ANC T-shirt with Zuma’s face‚ apparently as a statement against white academic staff.

Earlier this year‚ Masutha opined that free university education would come with an estimated cost to the state of between R6.5bn and R7.5bn.

He proposed that the government should foot the bill for tuition fees‚ accommodation‚ meals‚ transport and all study material. “No poor and working class student must be partially funded‚” he wrote at the time.

Masutha wrote that the final report of the presidential commission on higher education funding should come up with an “inclusive and comprehensive higher education funding model for all undergraduate students”. He added that these recommendations should be ready to implement in 2018.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said he did not know of any plans by Zuma to announce free tertiary education.

ANC insiders said they had heard of Masutha’s proposals but did not know whether it would be feasible at all.

By Ranjeni Munusamy, Qaanitah Hunter and Sabelo Skiti for Business Live

There is no doubt that technology has changed the way we live – from smart fridges to cloud computing and the Internet of Things, technology permeates every aspect of our lives. It therefore makes sense that educational institutions are evolving to encompass technology in order to better prepare learners for the high-tech world waiting for them.

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A programme that has been running for only four years is taking innovation in education to new levels. Partners for Possibility, a world first, award winning and uniquely South African programme is endorsed by some of the country’s most influential educational thought leaders, already touching 150 000 learners and more than 7 800 teachers in South Africa.

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