Portfolio Committee on Education
Government was determined to improve standards of education within rural areas as a vehicle to contribute to poverty alleviation. The department of education has presented its annual report to the portfolio committee on education in Parliament. The briefing outlined the progress made in meeting objectives contained within the minister of education’s five broad priority areas, namely, dealing with poverty, skills development, quality improvement, health education and institutional development.
In terms of poverty alleviation, a number of schools had been declared no-fee schools to assist the poverty-stricken with access to education. Approximately 40% of all primary and secondary schools now fell into the no-fee category. The department announced that 6 million learners had benefited from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). The department planned to extend the NSNP in the medium term. As regards the Further Education and Training Bursary Scheme, R67 million had been allocated to 50 Further Education and Training (FET) colleges to provide bursaries. The National Students Financial Aid Scheme had assisted approximately 12 500 students.
The department had formulated a development plan to advance education in rural areas. The plan would focus on key issues such as the quality of teaching, how rural schools were governed and community participation within school activities. The department also stressed that effective implementation of the plan was crucial. The department would continue to hold discussions with the Indian government on rural education initiatives. The department continued to contribute to the National Human Resource Development Programme. Various studies had been commissioned to improve the programme and ascertain the status of current projects designed to enhance human resources.
The department provided feedback on the implementation of the National Framework on Teacher Education and Development. Presently, the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme assisted 4089 students. Teacher recruitment drives had been initiated at higher education institutions to attract potential teachers into the teaching fraternity. The department referred to the launch of the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign in February 2008. The campaign aimed to teach 4.7 million unschooled illiterates over a five-year period to read and write.
The department stated that the development of the National Infrastructure Management System had been completed. The system is an electronic planning and management tool that facilitated “real time” access to information on infrastructure and facilities at all public schools. The Schools Infrastructure Support Programme had established high quality facilities in three provinces at 21 sites. The department was in consultation with the European Union to set up another six sites during the present financial year. The department declared that progress had been made in improving the skills level of teachers. The Integrated Quality Management System had been strengthened by the appointment of 9 project managers in each province and 84 moderators spread out equitably amongst the provinces.
The department had launched the Foundations for Learning Campaign in March 2008 that sought to improve literacy and numeracy within general education and training. The department would continue to focus on improving the learning and teaching of the gateway subjects of maths and science. Curriculum implementation would be supported by information and communication technology. In terms of health education, the department noted that the Education Amendments Bill had introduced drug testing for learners at schools. The department continued to provide information on Aids/HIV and drug abuse to learners. As part of its institutional development programme, the department had continued with FET recapitalisation. A study had been conducted to evaluate levels of efficiency at ten FET colleges and the findings had been used to determine funding norms.