Government has welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s request to serve on UN Secretary -General Ban Ki-Moon’s Education First Initiative which is geared towards advancing the achievement of quality, relevant and inclusive education for everyone across the world.
UN Secretary-General invited Zuma, who will one of ten inaugural Member State Champions for the Education First Initiative. The inaugural states are going to have the duty to give help and support to the UN Secretary-General to guarantee formidable visibility along with the success of the project.
The request to join the Education First Initiative is a clear indication to the reputation of South Africa as a country that is making an effort to undo the influence of centuries of colonialism and apartheid in education as well as other spheres according to Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj. The influence and impact of colonialism on education continues to be an extremely sensitive topic.
Numerous groups along with the Democratic Alliance have raised their objection to inclusion of South Africa given the recent failures of the Education Department whilst making claims that South Africa has not yet accomplished a great deal in education. This has also been backed up by universities stating that high students entering their institution are not prepared for post high school education.
Maharaj has defended his claims stating that these opinions are incorrect and malicious emphasizing that South Africa could count numerous successes in the last 18 years in reversing the consequence of a racist education system which had been created to suppress the majority. In many respects this statement is true but the we should not forget or discount the reality that after 18 years along with court orders, the education department still cannot deliver books to school children or take responsibility for this.
Among the list of accomplishments has been the splitting up of Basic and Higher Education in 2009 by the President to ensure that each could receive complete attention.
At the Basic Education level, government was forced to contend with the influence of poverty on learner overall performance along with aspects which include weak school management, teacher expertise and know-how, low levels of accountability in addition to limited resources all of which have impacted on the way schools performed.
As stated by Maharaj the government has systematically put into practice programs to deal with all of these flaws and improvement is being made. Most of all the government hopes to achieve the goal of universal access to education.
On top of that, more than eight million children are currently in no-fee schools not to mention the fact that government in addition has been successful in facilitating universal access to primary education. The percentage of girls enrolled in primary, secondary and tertiary education is without a doubt improving substantially. At the same time, the government’s school nutrition programme is currently feeding in excess of eight million children in more than 20 000 schools which has had a beneficial influence on overall performance of students.
Government is furthermore on course to fulfill its goal of having 100% coverage for Grade R by 2014. Grade R enrolment has grown from 300 000 to over 700 000 between 2003 and 2011. The government continues work tirelessly at eliminating mud schools with an injection of 8.2 billion rand been allocated to the programme. Over the next few months the government is expecting to open new schools in the Eastern Cape region replacing the old mud schools. The success rate of matric students has also improved from 67.8% in 2010 and 70.2% in 2011.
Maharaj also stated that government continuously work relentlessly to further improve the quality of teaching maths and science in addition to the teaching of literacy and numeracy. The education department also aims to improve the current university pass rate and providing graduates a greater chance of employment.
In order to improve literacy and numeracy in primary schools, the department of education has implemented Annual National Assessment (ANA) tests make it possible for to objectively appraise the health and well-being of the education system below Grade 12.
“The 2011 ANA results confirmed our belief that the levels of literacy and numeracy are very low, Grade 3 learner average scores are 28% and 35% for numeracy and literacy respectively. We want schools to use the results to produce school development plans so that we can systematically improve education outcomes. The target is to have 60% of Grade 3 learners performing at required literacy levels, at least 60% of Grade 9 learners performing at required mathematics levels, and 175 000 Grade 12 learners pass with a bachelor’s pass by 2014,” said Maharaj.
On the subject of school management, government has established objectives of producing in excess of 40 000 teachers by 2014. Additionally, when it comes to institutions providing Foundation Phase teacher education, the government hopes to increase the number from 13 to 21 within the upcoming four years. A few of these are going to be revitalized former colleges of education.
Regarding textbooks and learning materials, government has directed the Department of Basic Education to enhance the distribution logistics to ensure that books get to schools on time next year in order to avoid the issues that arose in Limpopo and other provinces this year. Even though the government is looking forward, no action has been taken for the text book blunder even after court decisions. One would have to question the true intent and responsibility of government. Many people have expressed the opinion that if this scenario were to happen in the private sector, those responsible would be seeking new employment. President Zuma is currently processing the Presidential Task Team report on the Limpopo saga and will make a statement as soon as he has completed the process.
“A lot of progress is being made in improving higher education access and outcomes. To reduce finance as a barrier to accessing post school training, allocations for loans and bursaries increased from R3.3 billion in 2010/11 to R5.5 billion in 2011/12, with R17 million focusing on learners with disability.”
Lets hope, for the future of the country, that these decisions will not be politically based given the fact that the future of the country depends the children and the education they receive.
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