25 January 2013

South Africa: Plans to Improve Rural Schools Need Robust Monitoring

press release

Turn-around strategies will not be enough to improve performance at rural schools, robust oversight and supervision are also critical factors in ensuring plans are implemented.

This is the view of Basic Education Committee Chairperson Ms Hope Malgas following the Committee's visit to rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Eastern Cape Province this week. The Committee's aim was to establish whether schools in these areas are ready for the 2013 academic year.

In their assessment of school readiness, the Committee focused on areas such as the state of the school environment; the supply and training of teachers; readiness to implement the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), particularly in the intermediate phase and Grade 11; the registration of learners, the delivery of textbooks, workbooks and stationery; and the availability of transport and school nutrition to qualifying learners.

Detailing their progress, the KZN Provincial Department of Education reported that most text books, stationery and workbooks were delivered in September 2012. The Eastern Cape said most of their material was delivered in December last year and they were busy with the delivery of outstanding material.

In terms of training of teachers for CAPS, KZN confirmed that their teachers were trained in collaboration with the teacher unions, whereas in Eastern Cape only a fraction of teachers were trained. Eastern Cape assured the Committee that a new training programme was in place and teachers were expected to undergo training by no later than February this year.

Both provinces had challenges regarding registration of learners - not all returning learners were registered and back in school. Principals attributed this to children not returning from holidays and said they expected the children to return to school in February once their parents had been paid at the end of January.

Scholar transport and school nutrition were functioning well in both provinces, with the Eastern Cape saying it had resolved learner transport challenges by extending all expired contracts.

Committee members were briefed on how these provinces planned to improve their poor performance in the Annual National Assessment (ANA) and National Senior Certificate results. Plans included afternoon classes, weekend classes as well as holding camps, in order to ensure learners were well equipped for any assessment.

While welcoming these plans, the Committee wanted assurance that they would be implemented and that provincial, district and circuit offices would provide the regular monitoring needed to ensure proper implementation.

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