South Africa: Education Committee Wants Improvements in Draft Policy On District Offices

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Tightening up some loose ends in the draft policy that seeks to position district offices as an integral element in improving the standard of education was yesterday (19 February) emphasised by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education.

The Committee would like the policy to state clearly how delegations by provincial departments would be handled. It also wanted the policy to clearly state what authority the district office would have over schools in its jurisdiction.

The introduction to the Draft Policy on the Organisation, Roles and Responsibilities of Education Districts makes it clear that one of the factors limiting districts' effectiveness is that the authority, roles, relationships and lines of accountability between provincial head offices, district offices and education institutions are not clearly formulated, understood and exercised.

The Department of Basic Education stated that responsibilities such as human resource management, school governance and financial management are essential for the effectiveness of district offices. The Department added that these responsibilities ought to be communicated by letter to the people responsible. The responsibilities should also be consistent with the appropriate legislation and accompanied by sufficient resources.

The Department also said the policy would take into account education circuit and district size in deciding on norms and standards. These norms state that an education circuit office must responsible for no less that 15 and no more than 30 schools. They further state that an education district must comprise no less than 5 and no more than 10 education circuits. Each district would have no fewer than 75 schools or more than 300 schools. According to the Department, these norms would also take into account factors such as geographical location, staffing and the financial implications.

The Department said that to guard against the situation in which the maximum becomes the norm, two further norms would apply:

in any district, the average number of schools per circuit must not exceed 25; and

in any province, the average number of schools per district must not exceed 250.

Turning to staffing at district offices, the Department said their post provisioning model would consider the number of learners, educators and schools to be served. One factor determining staffing in districts will be the distance district officials travel to schools and it will contribute a maximum of 10% in additional posts. Schools serving poor communities would be assisted with a maximum of 5% additional posts to ensure quality education.

While the Committee welcomed some of these policy positions, it wanted assurance that this policy would be enforceable to give the much-needed impetus to district offices.

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